No matter how many precautions you take to keep your information secure, there is always a possibility your information can become compromised. If you notice any of the following signs, you may have been hacked:
- You start receiving legitimate alerts from your anti-virus program. If you are not sure if the alert is legitimate, open the anti-virus program from your computer. Beware: anti-virus programs do not generate popups on websites or browsers. Fake online anti-virus ads are used to coax you into installing an actual virus.
- You get a pop-up on your computer claiming your files have been encrypted and you need to pay a ransom to restore your files.
- Your web browser starts redirecting you to websites you did not intend to visit.
- Your computer or applications crash frequently, or unknown applications and windows open automatically.
- Your passwords no longer work.
- Friends and family start receiving spam emails from your email account although you know you have not sent anything.
- You notice fraudulent charges to your credit card or withdrawals from your bank account.
What You Should Do:
If you believe your personal accounts have been hacked, take the following actions immediately:
- Change your passwords: If you use the same password for multiple systems, be sure to change it everywhere it is used. It is best to never use the same password in more than one place. If you suspect your computer or device is hacked, do not change your password on the hacked computer; use a different device or trusted computer. If you have a hard time keeping track of all your passwords, consider using a password manager.
- Contact your financial institution: For issues regarding your credit card or financial accounts, contact your financial institution or credit card company as soon as possible. Be sure to use a trusted number found on the back of your card, on your financial statement or on the company’s website. You may also want to consider contacting all 3 credit bureaus to put a freeze on your credit report.
- Follow recommendations of your anti-virus software: If you receive a notification from your anti-virus software that you have an infected file on your device, follow the software’s recommended actions. Be sure the recommendations are coming from the anti-virus program and not from a possibly fraudulent internet site.
- Reinstall the operating system: If you are unable to fix the affected files on your computer, it may be best to reinstall the operating system. As a precaution, do not reinstall from a backup; backups should only be used for recovering your personal files. Reinstalling or rebuilding your computer may be difficult. You may want to consider contacting a professional service to help you. If you have an outdated computer, it may be easier to purchase a new computer.
- Backup your files: Consider creating a backup system through an external hard drive, the cloud, etc. that will back up your files automatically and on a regular basis. If you are hacked, backups are likely the only way to recover your files.
- Contact law enforcement: If you have been hacked and feel threatened in any way, report the incident to local law enforcement. Additionally, if you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, visit https://www.identitytheft.gov for more information and to report the incident.