For over thirty years, I like most of you have been using email and using Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Occasionally, I have had my email hacked with very little damage. However, recently during the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a significant increase in the hacking and breaches of security. Recently I was a victim of hacking my email and several of my clients have experienced this during this time. I want to provide you with some tips to help get you through that process.
While it may be time consuming each day you should monitor your email and not just the new email, but mail that is old and recently deleted. Some hackers are using your email to communicate with your financial institutions seeking access to your money by requesting that a check be sent from your accounts. They will then delete the emails, so that you never see them. You should establish security protocols with your bank which include how you want to communicate with them. Normally, banks have have encrypted email systems and if they do not, you may want to consider changing to one that does. The hackers will usually use an email string that you originally sent to the financial institution and then add on their instructions. This appears to the bank to be more legitimate. While you may spot things that should tip your lender off that these are fraudulent emails, they are usually counting on the lender to be very busy as they target doing this on a Friday or at the end of the month when everyone is busy. By checking your recently deleted file you should be able to pick up any email that was deleted. However, a number of email services only leave these on their systems for seven days, so it is important to check them each day.
If you see that your email has been compromised I would recommend that you change all of your passwords on all of your accounts. You don’t know what information they have and if one email or facebook, twitter or other social media account has been hacked it’s a good practice to change all of your passwords. I would also recommend that you change the passwords on either at least a quarterly basis. In some cases, hackers gain access to an email and the search your email for months to review the emails which you have sent. Therefore, it is a good practice to move your old emails to specific files and pass code protect them as well. Identity theft is big business in this country and in most cases you will deal with an identity theft case for 18 months to 2 years.
If you believe that your identity has been taken you should file a police report. You also should contact the Federal Trade Commission which has a national notification system. You should contact all of your credit card companies and request that they cancel your card and provide you with a new one. You should contact your bank and have them change security protocols. One of my client’s had internet banking set up by the hackers and they gained access to her bank account. Be careful about thinking that you are safe if retailers have check cashing systems that screen transactions. For the most part they do not catch these transactions as they don’t usually have any common sense. A client of mine had a check written to Walmart for groceries in the sum of $935.00. You would have thought Walmart and its check service would have flagged that transaction but they did not.
You should also contact all three of the major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and Transunion and advise them that you have been a victim of identity theft. They can assist you in what steps you should take to protect your credit.
When you receive emails that you don’t recognize or ones attempting to get information from you and you are not familiar with them do not click on the email. The hackers may have installed programs to gather information from you once you click on the email. You can normally hover over the email with your mouse and check the address that the email came from. This spoofing is intended to assist the hackers in getting your information so they can steal your identity.
You may also want to consider using lifelock or some monitoring system. A number of credit card companies offer this as part of their service or some email providers also have this as a benefit. You should also consider using alert systems for your credit cards and financial accounts. They can alert you of any transaction so that you will know whether a transaction has occurred which does not belong to you. While the pandemic has changed a number of things it has also changed the way we need to be more vigilant in our efforts to protect ourselves from hacking and identity theft.