Deputies are trying to nip online scams in the router.
The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase in scammers using unsecured Wi-Fi connections to steal identities and mask their crimes during the past six months, Sheriff Terry Wagner said.
Wireless Internet connections that don't require passwords can be open invitations to criminals, his office said.
So deputies spent the past few weeks finding unsecure connections and sending 40 to 50 letters to let people know about the potential dangers of strangers accessing their network connections.
“You’re just opening yourself up for a series of potential pitfalls,” Chief Deputy Jeff Bliemeister said.
A few years ago, deputies tracked a crime back to an IP address and found a woman who had stolen mail to get personal information and used the victim's open Wi-Fi connections.
Deputies searched the home and learned residents had no idea the woman had gotten into their mail and computer files.
Purveyors of child pornography also use unsecured connections to snag what they want while avoiding detection.
People who have been contacted by the sheriff's office have been receptive to the advice and have called for more information, Bliemeister said.
Password-protected connections provide an adequate level of security.
Bliemeister said only businesses like coffee shops that offer Internet connections to customers need unsecured Internet connections.