Getting hacked is a truly awful experience, whether you’ve lost control of a social media or email account, had a credit card compromised, or even had your whole identity stolen. When you’ve been hacked, the first thing on your mind is usually regaining control of your accounts and cleaning up the damage.
But what steps should you take in the immediate aftermath of a hacking? That depends on your situation. If a single account has been hacked, you may still be able to protect your other accounts. If your data has been compromised in a data breach, you may be able to take steps to protect yourself before the hackers get around to using your information. If you had a credit card stolen, you just need to call the issuer and report the fraud. But if your identity has been stolen by someone taking out multiple accounts or performing other activities in your name, it’s going to be a lot harder to fix things. Here’s what you need to do.
When You’re Involved in a Data Breach
If you’re notified that your information has been compromised in a data breach, you may not have technically been hacked yet. Often data breaches leak the data of tens of thousands or even millions of people, so the hackers may not get around to using your data right away. That gives you the chance to change the passwords for any compromised accounts. If you’re using the compromised password for accounts not involved in the data breach, change it there too.
When One or More of Your Social Media or Other Accounts Are Hacked
When your social media, email, or other accounts are hacked, the hackers may attempt to scam your contacts out of money, often by saying that they’re you and they need money. You’ll know someone has hacked into your account when you can’t login, or when you get a notification that an unfamiliar device has logged into your account. You might also get a notification about a change to your username or password that you didn’t make. Your friends and family might even start contacting you, asking if you’re really stuck in Mexico City with no cash, or irate because your account is now spamming them with phishing emails.
When your social media or email account has been hacked, you should make sure your Trend Micro antivirus software is up to date, then run a scan and remove any suspicious programs from your computer. Then you’ll need to follow the service provider’s account recovery steps. Once you’re back in your account, change the password, then sign out of all devices to kick the hacker out. Turn on two-factor authentication and verify that your recovery information is correct. Then let your contacts know that you were hacked. You’ll also want to check what messages the hacker may have posted or sent with your account, what messages were deleted, and if the account has any message forwarding set up that you need to undo.
When Your Credit Card Number Is Stolen
You might not even notice that your credit card number has been stolen until your bank stops a charge on suspicion of fraud. Sometimes, you’ll get a notification that someone has changed your account information or is trying to change your account information. Thieves may also try a small fraudulent charge first, to make sure the card works. Call your bank immediately – you won’t have to pay the fraudulent charges. They’ll just give you a new card, and all you’ll have to do is update any accounts that use the old card number as a payment method.
When Your Identity Is Stolen
Having your identity stolen typically means having people open multiple credit accounts or buy expensive services in your name, and it can also mean stealing from your bank accounts, using your identity to commit crimes, using your health insurance to get medical care, and more. When your identity is stolen, you’ll need to notify the major credit reporting bureaus of the fraud, and have a fraud alert or a freeze put on your account. This may need to be permanent, and it will require you to go through extra steps whenever you want to open a new account.
You’ll also need to cancel your cards, change all your passwords, and maybe get new bank accounts. You’ll have to file a police report and a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You’ll need to contact every bank, credit card issuer, and agency or organization that was defrauded, and explain the situation. You should start using an identity monitoring service and start monitoring your credit for new changes.
When you’ve been hacked, don’t panic. Stay calm and take the right steps to repair your accounts. Getting hacked isn’t the end of the world – in most cases, you can move on from it fairly quickly.