You are sure it could never happen to you. You are careful with your passwords, you don’t fall for get-rich-quick scams and you are too smart to be conned. Well, even smart people have bad things happen to them and getting your email or social media account hacked is one of those bad things.
Email accounts are taken over by criminals for several reasons, including to get to your personal information and online accounts, to send out fraudulent emails and to use your identity to possibly convince others to give money or personal information.
Here are some steps to take if you believe your account has been hacked:
• Report the hack. As soon as you detect that your email account or social media profile has been compromised, report it to the email provider or social media site. Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and other webmail services have methods of resetting your account’s password. If you are completely locked out of your account, you will have to contact their security team and seek assistance. If it is a Gmail account, here is a very thorough look at steps you should take in navigating the process.
• Assess the damage. After you have re-accessed your account and reset the password, be sure to see what damage is evident from your files. Delete offending tweets or wall posts. Check to see what personal or financial information might have been available to the intruders from within your mail folders and notify the banking institutions that the account was hacked.
• Lockdown. Run a complete virus scan on any computer or device that was compromised. Change the passwords on any of your accounts. Use secure passwords that are not shared for every account. You can have an easy, less-secure password for news sites perhaps, but for any account that is linked to your financial life or that could be co-opted to damage your personal reputation, a secure, unique password is a must.
• Alert and apologize. Let your contacts know that your email had been compromised. Apologize to your friends if the hacker sent out inappropriate or offensive content.
• Be vigilant. You may want to enlist a credit monitoring service if you believe your financial information was compromised. At the very least, be sure to carefully review your accounts, including phone bills or other non-banking sites which can be billed for products or services (iTunes for example).
Hopefully, you will never be a victim of hacking. Just the thought of the potential damage that could be caused by a hack should be enough to get people to make their accounts and passwords more secure, because we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
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