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You need to avoid public USB charging stations – here’s why

Airports are one of the many busy areas sure to be full of people year-round, but it’s especially bad during holidays. People from all over the country crowd airports for business, pleasure and even for obligatory family visits. So of course, airports are prime targets for theft.

If you’re planning a trip but haven’t booked it yet, tap or click here for 10 travel websites that can save you a boatload of money.

Heavy travel days don’t just bring out extra airline personnel, it also draws out the lowest of the low. You guessed it: hackers and scammers. If you, or anyone you know, have travel plans in the near future, you really need to know about this scam.

No, do not use that charger!

How many times have you been about to board a flight only to realize your device is about to die? It’s super frustrating, especially these days when we depend on gadgets to entertain us on long flights. Tap or click to learn about one huge mistake that’s killing your phone’s battery.

Your first instinct is to find one of those public charging stations. That way you can plug your phone in, if only for a few minutes, to give it some extra battery life that will hopefully last long enough to make it through your favorite TV show.

But don’t do it!

Police are warning people against using public USB stations like the ones you find at airports. That’s because hackers are using a scam known as “juice jacking” to rip people off.

Here’s how it works: While most of the legitimate charging stations are probably fine, it’s possible for some to be configured to install malware on phones, or even steal data via juice jacking. Just plugging your phone or tablet into a hacked port could put everything on your device at risk.

Related: You’ve been charging your smartphone wrong

A Los Angeles official explained, “credit cards, passwords to banking accounts, your home address — all of that if you’ve ever put it into the internet anywhere could potentially be saved in your history in your phone.”

The Los Angeles County District Attorney sent the following tweet warning everyone:

What can you do to prevent juice jacking?

Of course, your safest bet is to bring your own USB cable and charger, and plug your device directly into a wall outlet. If you’re traveling, a phone charging kit is one of the essential things you’ll need to bring anyway.

Related: 3 clever safety tricks I use whenever I travel

The L.A. district attorney offers the following suggestions to avoid being juice jacked:

  • Avoid USB charging stations; Instead, use an AC power outlet.
  • Travel with AC and car chargers to keep your devices juiced.
  • Always have a portable charger on hand in case of an emergency.

Your phone, computer and other smart devices are constantly bombarded by dangerous malware. So how can you stay safe? Subscribe to Kim’s free Fraud & Security Alerts newsletter. You’ll learn about data breaches, recalled products and security alerts before anyone else. Subscribe now to stay safe with up-to-the-minute security alerts.

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