WARNING: Using public Wi-Fi can result in getting your identity stolen

A consumer alert – just in time for summer concerts and festivals. 

As crowds grow, so can the risk of your identity getting stolen. FOX 32 talked with a cyber-security expert to show you how it’s being done and how to stay safe.

It seems like wherever you go, open and free Wi-Fi networks are popping up on busy streets, in parks, restaurants, airports and hotels.

But experts say there is a risk of hackers coming after your personal information.

To demonstrate, FOX 32 brought Ray Hicks of 5th Column Security to our plaza on Michigan Avenue. Right away - it was easy to spot lots of people on their phones and laptops.

So, Hicks set up a Wi-Fi account called Michigan Avenue and waited.

In fact, Hicks says in less than 30 minutes, nearly 900 devices were on our Wi-Fi network.

Hicks said hundreds logged on to social media sites and dozens accessed their bank accounts.

“Without even logging in, we could potentially get an idea of what their balance is,” Hicks said.

Hicks says hackers could easily dig deeper and get sensitive information that could compromise accounts you log-in to on public Wi-Fi.

If you do use public Wi-Fi, 5th Column says never sign into password-protected accounts – like your email or bank.

Also, update your software. New updates can include new security features.

And also – change your settings to turn off Wi-Fi when you’re not using it.

To be clear, 5th Column did not intercept any accounts or hack into any users' devices.

For all of 5th Column’s tips for staying safe, click here

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