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Eye on Scams: Don’t plug your phone into a USB charging station, latest cyber theft tactic

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- If you’re traveling and your phone battery is running low, a charging station may seem like a lucky find.

But, experts are warning consumers to think twice before plugging your phone in at a public USB charging station.

It’s the latest cyber-theft tactic “juice jacking.”
You’re in a public place, such as a hotel, coffee shop, or airport, and you need to charge your phone. You notice a free, public charging station that uses a USB cable. You plug in your phone, and everything seems okay at first, but soon your phone starts acting strangely.


Laurian Clause, with the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana, said, “It’s plugging into these USB chargers that are very convenient so we want to make our consumers aware of the dangers of doing that.”

Maybe your battery or data plan on your phone drains faster than normal or your phone is working especially slow. The USB charging station is a way for scammers to download malware onto your phone.

“Your phone will have the USB charger which is that flat piece, and then you have the adapter that actually can access it through the AC power outlet so you always will want to be using the AC power outlet and not when you remove the adapter, then it’s USB connected and then the USB station is what you’re plugging into,” added Clause.

What’s also harmful about plugging your device into a public USB charging station is that the software installed by the scammers can record and send private details such as passwords or even, a full backup of your phone to thieves.

Clause explained, “You think you’re in a coffee shop that’s safe. The owners may not even be aware that if they have a USB charging station that someone accessed it inappropriately.”

Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau on how you can safely charge your device when traveling:

  • Avoid using USB charging stations. Use an AC power outlet or car charger instead. 
  • If you travel frequently, invest in a portable charger or external battery.
  • Keep your phone up to date.

If you have a scam you’d like me to investigate, feel free to send me an email at smasters@klfy.com.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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