Every now and then it happens: I’ll get an e-mail from a friend or relative asking me to click some link with an obscene-sounding name, or claiming that they are stranded overseas and need me to wire them some money. Most of these I dismiss out of hand, but sometimes I give them a call to let them know they’ve been hacked.
An email once went out from my account advertising some kind of spam. I changed my password and managed to nip it in the bud pretty quick. Similar situations crop up from time to time on Facebook. A while back I noticed my friend’s teenage son and his friends were spamming all their contacts for a while before they figured out how to stop it.
Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t know they’ve been hacked for quite a while and there’s always a chance someone in their contact list might click on a dangerous link or wire money to scammers hoping to get them out of a jam.
The Federal Trade Commission recently posted a set of guidelines to help consumers protect against hacking and figure out what to do if it happens.
Some clues that you may have been hacked:
- friends and family are getting emails or messages you didn’t send
- your Sent messages folder has messages you didn’t send, or it has been emptied
- your social media accounts have posts you didn’t make
- you can’t log into your email or social media account
What do you do if you think your account has been hacked?
- Make sure security software is up-to-date and delete malware
- Change passwords
- Check with their email provider or social networking site for information about restoring the account
- Check account settings
- Tell your friends
For more detailed advice, as well as tips for how to avoid being hacked in the first place, visit the FTC’s Hacked Email page.
And of course if you receive an email from someone you know that looks suspicious, don’t reply or wire money. If in doubt, contact the person by another method and find out if it was them.