“Having a great trip to London until I was mugged and lost all my money and credit cards. Stranded here and need money: please help!” What a start to an email and what should we do when we get one with a similar story?
First of all be assured that your Aunt Lucy is probably not stranded in London without money; more likely her email account has been hijacked and someone is sending out spam to her entire address book. I’m writing this column in response to three clients who suffered this invasion of privacy last week. One was an AOL user, one on Hotmail and the other was using att.yahoo mail (Bellsouth customer). I say this to let you know that this scam is real and prevalent.
What should you do when you see evidence of this problem? Notify the person about what has happened to their account. If it’s you, change your password immediately and 9 out of 10 times this will clear the problem. If you know how, look into the settings of your email account and see if the hacker changed anything else. One of the compromised accounts that I looked at last week, had forwarded all incoming mail to another dummy account. I assume someone was monitoring that account looking for others to infect or perhaps for some easy to snag banking or shopping information. Be alert just after such an attack and ready to adjust your response if further problems develop.
Here are a few tips to keep this from happening to you:
1. Don’t ever reply to any email request for your personal info such as passwords or SSN. Your Bank will never ask for such, nor will your ISP or email mail provider. I have seen some very clever emails written by scammers that have quite convincing backgrounds and logos for Bank of America, Microsoft, ATT, Mediacom and others. If they ask for personal info; just say no!
2. Use a strong password for your email account, especially your primary one
3. Use a unique password for your email account. If it is compromised, at least that’s the only one they’ll get
4. Don’t give out your email address willy-nilly
5. Always keep your OS and anti-virus softwares up to date.
I’d be interested in hearing from you readers that have been similarly attacked. It isn’t always easy to figure out how the security breach occurred.
And thanks to all readers and clients who sent me phone Apps that you recommend; I am planning a future column to share some of the better and most used ones. I’m also interested in your feedback in your most successful ways to keep your email and smart phone contacts synced. Hey, tell me about the ways that don’t work so well also.
Thanks for your help and
Till next week, send your questions to: