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Consumers are losing trust in online banking and shopping, but they can't stop using public Wi-Fi strives to provide our users with helpful information while remaining unbiased and truthful. We hold our sponsors and partners to the highest industry standards. Once vetted, those sponsors may compensate us for clicks and transactions that occur from a link within this page.

You can’t have your free Wi-Fi and use it, too. At least, not without a security breach.

Technology company MYPINPAD says over two-thirds of Americans believe their private data is at risk when they shop online or check their banking information. Yet the same amount believe their personal information is safe when they use public Wi-Fi, cybersecurity company Symantec says.

It’s important to understand public Wi-Fi is not safe for your personal info.

We get it. Public Wi-Fi is awesome. You get to use your devices all you want without going against your data plan, which could save you a ton of money. But on public Wi-Fi, you’re out in the open. It’s the equivalent of handing over your personal information to someone you don’t know and letting them do whatever they want with it.

“There is a deep divide between what people think is safe when it comes to using public Wi-Fi versus the reality,” says Symantec’s Fran Rosch, an executive VP. “What someone thinks is private on their personal device can easily be accessed by cyber criminals through unsecured Wi-Fi networks or even apps with privacy vulnerabilities.”

Younger Americans, 18- to 20-year-olds, want public Wi-Fi to post on social media (60 percent) and most sign on so they don’t drain their data plans (70 percent). But it’s not just the youths that are hogging it: 59 percent of baby boomers sign on because they want to make sure they can be reached.

Your internet habits matter, especially on a public network. Twenty-two percent say they’ve looked at not-safe-for-work content while on public Wi-Fi and of those, almost half have done so at work and/or in a restaurant. Still, that’s better than accessing your bank account there.

If you thought your stuff was secure, think again! Symantec says 12 percent of Americans could get onto a secure Wi-Fi connection just by guessing or hacking their way on. If they can hack a Wi-Fi password, they most definitely can hack your computer or phone while you’re on that network.

Your habits can change business practices

MYPINPAD says consumers are big on wanting multiple security features when verifying their identity online. Two-thirds of survey respondents say they’re concerned about their online banking and shopping security. But if you’re connecting to public Wi-Fi when you’re logging on, are you still blaming the company? Or yourself? It’s not their fault over yours; it’s both.

Only 33 percent of respondents admit to being a victim of fraud, but almost two-thirds say data breaches impact their online banking and shopping. While consumers can do plenty to stay safe online, companies can gain (or re-gain) trust of users by offering more secure options and letting them know they exist.

“This research highlights the need for banks, retail, payment and card schemes to strike a better balance between user experience and security,” says MYPINPAD’s David Poole. “For many consumers, loyalty and a great experience entails tangible security. Multifactor authentication and transparency are key to winning consumer trust.”

Some groups have already noticed the issues and are actively working on them. Banks are warning customers more often about fraud consumers are noticing an uptick in fraud alerts.

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Meet the Author

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn


Zinn is a freelance journalist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


identity theft, wifi

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