A new AARP survey of Internet users shows that the freedom and convenience of public wireless networks may come at a cost. A free Wi-Fi network at an airport, hotel or coffee shop is convenient, but without a secure network, Americans risk oversharing, leaving themselves vulnerable to attacks by con artists and hackers.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network’s “Watch Your Wi-Fi” campaign gives Mainers the information they need to stay connected without sacrificing their personal security.

A newly launched anti-cyberscam website, www.aarp.org/watchyourwifi, features “Four Things Never to Do on Public Wi-Fi”:

Don’t fall for a fake: Con artists often set up unsecure networks with names similar to a legitimate coffee shop, hotel or other free Wi-Fi network.

 Mind your business: Don’t access your email, online bank or credit card accounts using public Wi-Fi.

 Watch your settings: Don’t let your mobile device automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi.

Stick to your cell: Don’t surf using an unknown public network if the website requires sensitive information – like online shopping. Your cellphone network is safer.

There are also simple proactive steps each of us can take to keep our sensitive information safe online.

For example, almost a third of survey respondents report not having a passcode on their smartphones, putting them at high risk should their device be lost or stolen. Forty-five percent reported not updating their online passwords in the last 90 days.

“Watch Your Wi-Fi” is a great place to start if you want to learn how to be your own best scam and fraud fighter.

Michael Parent

volunteer, AARP Maine Fraud Watch Network