Fraud: How to Tell if You've Been Hacked

Installing and updating antivirus software can go a long way toward protecting your computer and mobile devices from viruses and malware, but it’s important to remember that hackers are always tinkering with their tactics in order to evade detection. Watch out for these signs that you’ve been hacked.

Fake antivirus messages

Fake antivirus warnings are among the surest signs that your system has been compromised. Unfortunately, by the time you see the fake warning, the damage has been done. (Note: This requires being able to recognize your antivirus program’s legit warning.) The fake scan, which always finds tons of “viruses,” is a lure to buy a product. Clicking on the provided link sends you to a professional-looking website that will ask you for your credit card number and billing information. If you comply, the bad guys will gain complete control of your system plus get your credit card or banking information.

What to do: As soon as you notice the fake antivirus warning message, contact your IT department and power down your computer.

Unwanted browser toolbars

Your browser suddenly has multiple new toolbars with names that seem to indicate the toolbars are supposed to help you.

What to do: Most browsers allow you to review installed and active toolbars. Remove any you didn’t absolutely want to install. When in doubt, remove it. If the bogus toolbar isn’t listed there or you can’t easily delete it, see if your browser has an option to reset the browser back to its default settings. If this doesn’t work, contact your IT department.

Your friends receive fake emails from your account

This is one scenario where you might be OK. It’s fairly common for our email friends to receive malicious emails from us. If it’s just a few friends and not everyone on your email list, then more than likely your computer hasn’t been compromised. These days mal­ware programs and hackers often pull email addresses and contact lists from social media sites, but doing so means they get a very incomplete list of your contacts’ email addresses. Although not always the case, the bogus emails they send to your friends often don’t list your email address as the sender. The message may have your name, but not your correct email address. If this is the case, then usually your computer is safe.

What to do: If one or more friends reports receiving bogus emails claim­ing to be from you, run a complete antivirus scan on your computer, then look for unwanted installed programs and toolbars.

You get calls from stores about nonpayment of shipped goods

In this case, hackers have compro-mised one of your accounts, made a purchase, and had it shipped to someplace other than your address. Often, the bad guys will order a lot of merchandise at the same time, making each business entity think you have enough funds at the begin­ning, but as each transaction finally pushes through you end up with insufficient funds.

What to do: Alert your IT depart­ment if a work computer or device is involved. Then change all your log-on names and passwords (not just the one related to the single compromised account), call law enforcement, get a case going, and start monitoring your credit. You’ll may spend months trying to clear up all the bogus transactions, but you should be able to undo most, if not all, of the damage.

Questions or Concerns?

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