More than 2.5 million people use America Online (AOL) for email. Yesterday, AOL issued a statement confirming what many of us had already known, which is that AOL had been hacked and many AOL email account users had their email accounts taken over in a Botnet of zombie computers whereby the hacker takes control of your email account and uses it to send emails to people in your address book with spam or harmful malware that can result in the people receiving an email that appears to be from you having their identities stolen when they click on links in the emails. If you use AOL email, just go to your Send file to see if your account is one of those affected. If it shows emails being sent that you did not send, you have been hacked.
As I repeatedly tell you, never click on a link in an email even if it appears to be from someone you trust until you have confirmed that the email is legitimate and the link is legitimate. Identity thieves rely on us trusting emails that appear to come from people we know and clicking on links that may download malware such as keystroke logging malware that can steal the information from your computer and make you a victim of identity theft. If you have been a victim of the hacking, AOL is advising you to change your password, but that is definitely not enough to make you safe. Here is a list of things you should do if your email is hacked:
1. Change your password on your email account. If you use the same password for other accounts, you should change those as well.
2. Change your security question. I often suggest that people use a nonsensical security question because the information could not be guessed or gathered online. For instance, you may want the question to be “What is your favorite color?” with the answer being “seven.”
3. Report the hacking to your email provider.
4. Contact people on your email list and let them know you have been hacked and not to click on links in emails that may appear to come from you. You have already done this.
5. Scan your computer thoroughly with an up to date anti-virus and anti-malware program. This is important because the hacker may have tried to install a keystroke logging malware program that can steal all of the information from your computer.
6. Review the settings on your email, particularly make sure that your email is not being forwarded somewhere.
7. Get a free copy of your credit report. You can get your free credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com. Some other sites promise free credit reports, but sign you up for other services that you probably don’t want or need.
8. Consider putting a credit freeze on your credit report. You can find information about credit freezes here on Scamicide.