I’ve Been Hacked! Now What?

| November 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

These words bring a certain level of dread to most people who hear (or think them). But what can you really do if you’ve been hacked? First, it’s going to depend on just what information has been compromised and where the hack occurred.

I got a call from AppleCare (or Dell or Microsoft) saying…

No big company tech support is going to call you unless you call them first. If you’ve fallen for this scam, you’re not alone. Most likely, they’ll browse around your computer and install some malware or adware (software to place ads in your internet browser) and maybe track your keystrokes. Some people have been talked into paying for the hacker’s “support” work. In a worst-case scenario, they might have stolen documents and personal information from your system. At a minimum, change your passwords for financial accounts and run virus and antimalware scanners like MalwareBytes.

A store where I shop has been hacked

Lots of big, reputable businesses have been hacked, and it seems to be happening more frequently. What this generally means is that either your credit card information may have been compromised or any information you stored with that company may have been accessed by hackers. For example, in the case of Target, hackers were able to access credit card transactions, but little else. If you think your credit card information might have fallen into the wrong hands, call the card issuer and get a new card. Also, keep a close eye on that account for a while to make sure no suspicious charges show up.

In other cases where hackers might have gained access to usernames and passwords, you need to change your account credentials with the affected website or store. But you also need to think about where else you’ve used that userID and password. Since that credential combination is now public knowledge, you should change your password for those other accounts as well.

I can’t log into my email.

If someone has gained access to your email account, they’ll often change your password so you can’t access it. Then they’ll use your account to send phishing emails to everyone with whom you correspond. Hackers have also been known to read through your emails to get a sense of how you write, then use your email to contact financial institutions and ask for money. Whatever has happened, if you haven’t set up a recovery system before now, you need to talk to your email provider ASAP to lock down your account and take it back. You should also warn your friends you’ve been hacked so they don’t click on any of the nasty stuff the hacker may send them in your name.

My friend told me I posted something strange on Social Media

This is going to be pretty similar to recovering your email. You should also post a note in your feed that you’ve been hacked and disclaiming whatever was posted in your name.

My computer is acting weird

This can be harder to detect. If your internet browser suddenly changes (to a new browser, or a new home page), you start getting strange search results, or you can’t get to your normal search website, then you may have had some malware added to your system. Uninstall any programs that have been installed recently and run a deep scan with your antivirus program.

More subtle things like the mouse moving on its own or programs starting without you could indicate a deeper problem, such as someone else actually using your system. This can be much more difficult to correct, and you might want to seek help from an IT professional, or at the very least the computer’s manufacturer.

Keeping your information safe

These days, it’s safe to assume your personal information (name, address, social security number) have been accessed by someone. It’s best to make your passwords complicated (long, with numbers, symbols and upper and lower case letters). It’s also critical to stay on top of your credit, so that you know if someone has opened an account in your name. There are many free and paid services for this.

This column is prepared by Rick Brooks, CFA®, CFP®. Brooks is director/investment management with Blankinship & Foster, LLC, a wealth advisory firm specializing in financial planning and investment management for people preparing for retirement. Brooks can be reached at (858) 755-5166, or by email at rbrooks@bfadvisors.com. Brooks and his family live in Mission Hills.

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