Consumer Defense

Summary. There has been a recent wave of email account hackings which have resulted in email messages being distributed in batches to people on the contact list address book of the hacked user account.

How? People often wonder how this happens. If their computer has a spyware virus, or if they have used a compromised computer, where keystrokes are being recorded, then their username and password may have been stolen that way. Thousands of accounts are hacked daily simply because the person didn’t use a strong password. So, this is another reason that accounts get hacked into.

What Now? If your account has been compromised, you should do the following:

  • Contact your service provider (such as AOL or Hotmail) to let them know.
  • Contact a friend or family member familiar with computers and get them to help you follow the remaining steps if necessary. Or, contact a reputable computer support provider.
  • Make sure you have up-to-date antivirus software and scan your system for viruses and malware.
  • You should also change your password and review any of your personal information that would have been available to someone with access to your account after hacking into it. If security questions and answers were visible, those should be changed.
  • Notify all your contacts to be careful of any email messages that arrive with nothing in the subject line and/or a message that contains only a link to a website.

Avoiding Future Problems. Be sure that you keep your antivirus software up-to-date. When on computers you’re unfamiliar with, it’s okay to browse the web, but don’t login to any accounts. If you do use a public computer to login to an account, change the password once you get back to a trusted computer. Use a complicated password that isn’t easy for someone to guess.

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