One of the most common problems we see daily at Mother Computers is when someone has been hacked or thinks they have been hacked. It's very rare that this is actually the case, but when someone is hacked, it's often too late by the time they realize it, which could result in potential loss of documents, a breach of personal or banking information, or a flat out scam. We've written this article in hopes it will help you see the warning signs of potential hacking and general tips on how to stop hacking from happening to you in the first place. We will also tell you what to do if you have been hacked.
Why does this happen?
The most common form of hacking that we have been seeing with our Victoria area customers, in particular, is in the form of email scams. Email fraud, or better known as phishing or email scams, have been around since the beginning of email. The problem is, they are getting more sophisticated and harder to spot because the emails often look very legitimate. And can fool even a well educated eye. Usually, the emails will appear to come from a person or company that you are familiar with or perhaps a trustworthy business such as Apple, Amazon, or Netflix. Sophisticated hackers will use the correct logos and a similar-looking email address as well as your name or other identifying information about you making it very hard to know for sure what is legitimate and what is not.
Phishing scams may look different but all hacking scams have the same objective: to obtain your personal information and/or access to your computer. If they are able to achieve this, they will use the information for different illegal purposes such as online purchases, bank transfers, signing up for websites using your name and/or credit card information, or other harmful and potentially dangerous activities.
Sometimes hackers will even take control over your computer and then demand a sum of money to be paid, much like a ransom. They will usually convince you to give them access to your computer by telling you that there is already a virus on your computer or that your anti-virus program is in need of an update and obtain information such as personal and banking information, which could result in another type of financial loss. There are many types of scams out there, but you don't have to be a victim. This is why it's important to stay educated and on the lookout for these cyber pirates!
How to know for sure
It's easy to think that you have been hacked when really your computer is slow due to other ongoing system issues. It's always a good idea to take your computer for a tune-up when you notice things aren't running completely smoothly in order to prolong the lifespan of your device. It has also been a concern of our customers after opening a legitimate-looking email and seeing a pop-up on their screen, such as the ones below, telling them that they have been hacked. These are built to look very real and are intimidating and scary! Here are some examples:
The emails are usually very enticing and often offer you something for free or a monetary benefit from "just clicking" a button. Sometimes they imply that something is wrong and immediate action is required. There is always urgency and the demand to "act now or else!".
Some on the word tracks you may find in these emails are hard to resist, people everyday fall prey and click on them. Here are some examples:
"You're a winner, get your free prize NOW!"
"Your payment was declined, click here before you lose your service"
"Your order has been delayed, immediate action is required"
"A refund request has been approved"
What to do next
Before you click on anything further, don't panic. If you see a suspicious email or an email that you can't tell is legitimate or not, your first step should be to call someone you trust. A trusted friend or family member, or even a team member here at Mother Computers can help. Everyone receives these types of emails and they seem to come when you are least expecting them.
Next, don't click on any links. The best way of eliminating risk is to close the email and delete it from your inbox. There is also a way to block this sender to prevent further emails from them. If you have accidentally clicked on a link, there may be other steps that need to be taken. Ask your trusted person what to do next.
Finally, if you think your computer has been infected by a virus, or you have allowed someone remote access to your computer, or if you are just not feeling comfortable, have a professional or trusted person come look at it. There are mobile services available from local computer shops or you can bring your computer in to be inspected. These inspections usually don't take very long and can provide peace of mind that your computer is secure again.
How to Prevent
The best way to prevent this from happening is to always be suspicious. Assume all emails that ask you to take action are scams, whether it asks to click a link or fill in a form or even call a phone number, odds are it could be a scam. Even if the email looks like it is coming from someone you trust, it is possible that their computer has been compromised and they don't even know the email has been sent.
Never send personal and/or financial information by e-mail.
Always check with the source to confirm the email is legit. For example, if you receive an email that appears to be from your bank or the CRA, call them. Ask them if they sent you an email.
Review your credit card and bank statements as often as possible, at least once a month but once a week is better.
Check your credit regularly through Equifax or TransUnion. Once a year is recommended, you can also sign up for a service that will monitor it on a regular basis.
Make sure that all devices in your home, that are connected to the internet, are protected. Install anti-spam, anti-spyware and anti-virus software and make sure they are always up to date. Having your main computer/laptop inspected regularly is also a good idea. This will not only keep you safeguarded but improve performance as well.
Never give away passwords to your accounts to someone online. No reputable company will ever need your password for any reason, even to verify your account. The only person who should have your password is you!