Sure it will never happen to you? You may be careful with your passwords, don’t fall for get rich quick scams and are pretty sure that the ‘click here’ for a free laptop was legitimate... In other words you're 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 a possibility.
Email accounts are taken over by criminals for several reasons, including:
- Getting to your personal information and online accounts
- Sending out fraudulent emails to multitudes of strangers
- Identity theft
Report The Offense Immediately
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 passwords.
From the login page just look for account settings or security information and hopefully you can reset the password easily. 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 to a secure password, be sure to see what damage is evident from your files. Look to see any sent messages, wall posts, tweets that may have gone out. Check for any auto responses that may have been set or website addresses added to your signature. 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.
Run a complete virus scan on any computer or device that you have used. Now go and change any 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.
"Sorry folks, but I was hacked!"
Let your contacts know that your email had been compromised and to please ignore any fraudulent messages. Apologize as well as your account may have sent out inappropriate or offensive content and may have put their identities at risk.
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 include 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. Just the thought of the potential damage that could be caused by a hack will send you running to update your security, because we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.