Your phone follows you wherever you go, a constant companion throughout your day. With it in reach, you can do pretty much anything on your to-do list — from checking up on emails and texting friends to paying bills and managing loans online.
Your smartphone lets you do these tasks (and more) wherever you get free Wi-Fi, but that doesn’t mean you should exercise that right. Some things are better left until you can hop on your home network.
Free Wi-Fi isn’t as Safe as You Think
The free Wi-Fi provided by your local coffee shop or mall usually isn’t password protected, so anyone with a capable device can log on.
Sharing a network with strangers can be dangerous. People with the right skills and motivation can exploit this shared connection to spy on others.
These virtual voyeurs know how to intercept any data you share between your phone and the unsecured network, including login credentials, contact details, and financial information. The latter is a jackpot for these spies, as they can leverage that data to steal your identity, hack into accounts, and open fraudulent payday loans in your name.
3 Things You Should Never Do Using a Hotspot or Public Wi-Fi
Someone snooping on your browsing doesn’t always result in identity fraud. You aren’t in danger if you do general browsing on an unsecured network, like looking up an address or checking out an online menu.
However, you are at a much higher risk of exposing personal information if you do any of the following three things:
1. Borrow in an Emergency
Emergencies are unpredictable, and sometimes you can be out and about when you need an emergency installment loan. You can easily research same business day loans with your phone as soon as you need of a cash advance, but you should think twice before submitting an application.
Most online direct lenders require financial information to assess your creditworthiness. This info may include your address, bank account number, employment history, and social security number. These are the keys to your financial house, so you can’t expose them on public Wi-Fi. Cybercriminals could use this information to apply for other payday loans and cash advances.
2. Pay Bills
You shouldn’t pay bills using a public hotspot for much of the same reason. Although you may not be filling out an application for a loan, you will have login into your bank account. Exposing your login credentials compromises the account, as any eavesdropping attackers will see your password.
More worryingly, they’ll be able to access anything in this account, including your checking and savings accounts and linked credit cards, personal loans, and lines of credit.
3. Accept a Friend’s IOU
You get a ping on your phone as you sip on a latte. A friend is paying you back for those concert tickets you bought them last week. While you might be tempted to accept their IOU right then and there, you should wait to collect until you are back on your home network.
Money transfer apps like Venmo connect with your bank account. While these apps rely on standard encryption methods to protect data sent between accounts, they can’t defend you against Wi-Fi eavesdroppers. Signing into these apps could give cybercriminals the tools they need to fraudulently transfer money out of your checking account.
Wait to Do Financial Tasks
Free Wi-Fi can be a handy option when you run out of data and want to browse the Internet but think twice before signing into any financial app or website.