Be careful when you’re out in public at an establishment that offers free Wi-Fi.

It could lead to lots of problems, including stolen identity.

AARP’s FraudWatch Network found in a 2015 survey that nearly 25 percent of those surveyed used free public Wi-Fi once a week or more.

Free Wi-Fi networks are at airports, hotels, coffee shops and more. They may be convenient but are not secure networks. Scammers love to frequent places that offer free Wi-Fi and set up “hot spots” that enable them to redirect your connection so they can see what you’re working on.

Unknowingly you could be sharing important emails and credit card information directly with these hackers.

What never to do on public Wi-Fi:

* Don’t access your email, online bank or use your credit card. When doing any shopping or anything using a credit card, use your cell service or home network. It still may have risks, but is safer than public Wi-Fi. Consumers should only use Wi-Fi if they know it’s a secure connection.

* Don’t let your mobile device automatically connect to a nearby Wi-Fi.

* Don’t surf using an unknown public network if the website requires sensitive information. Your cellphone network is safer.

Safe things to do on public Wi-Fi include checking sports scores, weather or looking at local restaurants.

“But anything that needs a password or user name to log in, isn’t safe,”  Jane Margesson of the Portland AARP office said.

When using free Wi-Fi, look for suspicious activity such as someone else logging into your email or malware taking over your computer.

In its survey, AARP FraudWatch found that half of those surveyed failed a quiz about online and wireless safety, and that tens of thousands of people admitted to engaging in activity that could put them in the sight of hackers.

AARP FraudWatch is working to educate the public to prevent scams, which are on the rise. For more information, go to or call 1-877-908-3360.

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