Winnipeg hotel’s WiFi network leaves woman’s information vulnerable to identity theft

12 March 2015

An anonymous woman contacted the CBC on Wednesday, reporting that she had been warned by a stranger using the same hotel WiFi network that all of her personal information was visible. The woman had checked into the hotel, the Canad Inns Fort Garry in Winnipeg, on Monday, January 5, and received an alarming phone call from an unknown number that night. On the other end was a man’s voice warning her that he was logged into the hotel’s WiFi and was able to see all of the woman’s personal information, including credit card numbers and passport information.

The woman told the CBC, “He said, ‘I know your husband’s name. I see your passport. I see all your computer information. You have to log off of your WiFi right now because I can see all your credit card numbers, I can see your photos — everything!’ He could see everything. It was quite creepy.”

Unfortunately, many hotel, restaurant and other public WiFi networks are not properly secured, so this kind of problem is relatively commonplace. In this case, the woman realized she had forgotten to turn off file-sharing on her computer before she connected to the network. To protect yourself from identity theft while using public WiFi networks, always make sure your computer is not set up to share files with others in the area, and never perform transactions involving personal information or credit card numbers while on a public network, as this can lead to credit card fraud.

If you travel frequently and often have to perform secure transactions on public networks, it can be worth it to upgrade to a VPN, or virtual private network, to make sure your information is secure. Subscribing to a credit monitoring service is another common-sense move to gain peace of mind that your personal information isn’t being used inappropriately.