Today’s scam of the day is prompted by a friend of mine having her email account hacked into. In her particular situation, it was not as bad as it could have been. It was hacked into and then used as a part of a botnet to send out relatively harmless advertising spam. However, hacked email accounts can also subject you to more sinister problems such as identity theft as when your computer becomes infected with a keystroke logging malware program that can steal all of the information from your computer. For many people the first sign that their email account has been hacked is when friends start calling or emailing telling you that they have received a suspicious email that appears to come from you.
The first thing you should do is make sure that your Firewall and security software are current and operative. You should not take any further steps until you are sure that your computer is secure and that is not infected with a keystroke logging malware program because if it is, you are merely continuing to communicate with your hacker. Send out an immediate blast email to everyone on your email list to let them know that your email account has been hacked and that despite what they might have been told in an email that appeared to come from you, you are not marooned in London and in need of cash. That needy traveler scam is one that hacked email accounts are often used for. Using a clean computer, log into your email account and make sure that your settings have not been changed such as where your email is being forwarded to another email address. If any of your settings have been changed, delete those changes and put your own settings back into effect. Set new a new password for your email account and make sure it is a secure one. You can find more detailed information about this in my book “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age.” Finally, do a little soul searching. Most likely, you invited the hacker in by clicking on a tainted link or downloading tainted material. Remember my motto, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.” You should never download material or click on a link unless you are absolutely positive it is legitimate and not infected. Merely because something appears to come from a friend does not mean it is legitimate. After all, your friends are receiving links in emails that appear to be from you because your account was hacked.