We hear the term all the time, but what does “getting hacked” mean? Hacking occurs when your online personal information is compromised and is used to commit fraud. It’s becoming more prevalent, and as in every area of cybercrime, the “bad actors” are getting craftier about getting around ordinary security systems. But what should you do if you’ve been hacked?
Take These Steps Before You’re Hacked
You know the old saying, “the best defense is a good offense.” By taking a few simple steps, you can lessen the likelihood you’ll become a victim of hacking. And you’ll be in a better position to take steps immediately if you suspect you’ve been hacked.
1. Use strong passwords, and a different one for each website you use. We know this one is hard. You have passwords for so many places – banks, credit cards, brokerage and retirement plan accounts, email, social media, and so much more. A password manager such as Last Pass (www.lastpass.com) can help by securely keeping track of all your passwords so you only have one to remember.
2. Set up alerts for account activity. Many financial institutions let you set up an alert (usually a text message or email) when your card is used. This can help you become aware of unusual activity quickly.
3. Monitor your credit report. The three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and Transunion—all allow you to pull your credit report once a year at no charge. Take advantage of this free service, and if you see anything incorrect on the report, follow the necessary steps to correct it.
4. Check your financial accounts daily. You’re more likely to notice a problem if you keep tabs regularly. And be sure to watch for small transactions of a dollar, or just a few cents—these may indicate a bad actor is testing your account to see if it’s vulnerable.
5. Watch for “skimmers.” If you’re at a self-serve gas station or other merchant and the card slot seems loose or somehow acts unusual, leave without entering your PIN. These skimmers will capture your account and PIN information, meaning the bad guys have access to everything they need to clear out your account or run up your balances.
6. Use cash for small transactions. Keep some cash with you, and if you’re at a vendor or restaurant where they take your credit or debit card “to the back” to run the charge through, consider using cash instead.
7. Look into identity protection. Identity theft protection goes beyond fraud alerts and credit freezes to detect additional forms of identity fraud with existing accounts, or criminal, medical, or Social Security misuse. ID360 is available to you and your family at a substantial discount because of your affiliation with Cetera Financial Group. Visit https://www.identitylockdown.com/Cetera to learn more.
I’ve Been Hacked—Now What?
Even with the best of precautions, it happens. Acting fast is vital to protect your information and your accounts. Here are some steps to take right away:
1. Always confirm with your financial institution or credit issuer. If you get an unexpected call saying you’ve been hacked, or a payment is late (and a recent popular scam is that the IRS wants money and needs a credit card immediately or you’ll go to jail) don’t give any personal information on the phone. Hang up and call back the bank, credit card company, or merchant (or even the IRS) using the main number from their website to confirm.
2. Change all your passwords immediately. This is a vital early step to maintaining your security. If the bad actors have compromised one of your accounts, all the others are at risk. (Hint: LastPass will make this a much easier process.)
3. Consider a credit freeze. Contact the three major credit bureaus to have your credit frozen. If someone tries to use your personal information to open an account, they won’t be able to, and you’ll get an alert.
Please feel free to reach out to us if you’d like more information about your online safety. We're here to help!