The FBI warns the public not to charge their phones at these high risk locations

The FBI warns the public not to charge their phones at these high risk locations
While you might think that public charging stations are a godsend-and they certainly can be for smartphone owners who have little to no battery life remaining and don't have a power bank with them-they are also dangerous. That's the word from the organization that J. Edgar Hoover himself ran for so many years, the FBI. Today's FBI loves to take advantage of modern technology so it's no surprise that the G-men took to their Twitter account to punch out a tweet (via DigitalTrends) warning consumers about this risk.

The Tweet from the FBI's Denver office says, "Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers. Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices. Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead." That's sage advice from the FBI as it warns consumers how to avoid what is known as "juice jacking."

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Malware could be installed on the USB port or a USB cable connected to a public charging station which could infect your phone helping attackers track keystrokes and/or steal data. You wouldn't want an attacker to gain access to your banking app, would you? Since the USB port is used for both charging and data transfer, when prompted on the screen whether you are using the port for charging or to transfer data, choose the former when you are hooked up to a public charging station.

Back in 2019, the Los Angeles Country District Attorney's office issued a warning about what it calls the USB-Charger Scam or "juice jacking." The warning came with some tips that are still valid four years later:

  • Instead of using a public charging station, find a wall outlet to plug your own cables into (carry your own charging gear with you).
  • If you're planning to be on the road, buy a car charger (this is underrated advice that is a very good tip).
  • Buy a power bank and make sure you charge it up fully before you leave the house or hotel room.

If you absolutely must use a public charging station, keep your phone locked when charging. If you can charge your phone with the device powered off, that would be even better.

While a public charging station might seem like a sight for sore eyes, especially if you're desperate to charge your device, keep in mind that by using the station, you could end up giving away access to your phone and allow someone you don't know to get into your banking app and siphon your hard-earned cash out of your accounts. It's difficult to go without your phone, especially if on a business trip.

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But you can always stop at a nearby pharmacy and purchase a power bank. Many of them are pre-charged to a certain level. And while they might seem expensive, purchasing one and avoiding a public charging station might save you some money in the long run.

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