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Experts: Wi-Fi Hotspots Can Leave Users Vulnerable To Identity Theft

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- Free Wi-Fi can be found everywhere, from the airport to public parks, and even coffee shops.

It's convenient for consumers, but as CBS 2's Jericka Duncan reported it's also a prime target for hackers.

At Gregory's Coffee, Caleb Huff, a private Wi-Fi security expert showed CBS 2's cameras how easy it is for a hacker to steal people's information.

Huff used a device that he bought online to set up a fake Wi-Fi hotspot. The store's Wi-Fi is called @Gregory's Coffee. Huff named his fake hotspot Greg Coffee 1.

CBS 2's Duncan connected to the rogue hotspot and logged into a Yahoo account that had been set up for this story.

Huff could see the sites that were visited and the username and password that CBS 2's Duncan used while logged on.

"Once I have your password, if you're using the same password on your banking website I can take your identity," Huff explained.

The easiest way to protect yourself is to log onto the correct hotspot, but users can also buy a VPN.

"VPN or virtual private network. What a virtual private network does is it encrypts everything from your device. So you're fully protected across that vulnerable Wi-Fi," Kent Lawson, CEO, Private Wi-Fi explained.

Private Wi-Fi is one of dozens of companies that sell VPNs. They cost between $3 and $10 a month and are more popular than ever.

Lawson said that he has twenty times as many clients now as he had two years ago.

Experts cautioned that hackers can set up a fake Wi-Fi hotspot almost anywhere.

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