Picture this:

It’s a typical Saturday evening. You’re at your computer, catching up on your financials from the week.

Suddenly, you notice something unusual.

Hold on. You spent how much on eBay?

You don’t even remember shopping on eBay!

You scan the rest of your bank statement. You start noticing even more mystery charges.

What’s going on?

You’ve probably guessed it by now: You’ve been hacked.

It happens to the best of us. Maybe you clicked on a bogus email, downloaded the wrong file, or trusted a company that had a data breach. No matter how it happened, your financial information has been stolen.

First, take a deep breath. You’re not alone. Here’s how to gain control of the situation.

Change your passwords, and make them secure.

Reduce damage by regaining access to all the accounts and profiles that may have been compromised.

If the hacker has changed your account information and locked you out, contact the customer service department of that account to regain access.

Create new, secure passwords and change them all – frequently.

  1. Select a password that is at least 6 characters long.
  2. Don’t use commonly used passwords
    • “123456”, asdf123”, and birthdays are all massively common and easy to guess.
  3. Use as many character types as you can
    • Uppercase and lowercase letters, punctuation, and numbers.
    • For example: 8-Bait$-Weight!” is easy to remember, but massively complex for a brute-force attack hacker to guess.
  4. Never answer “yes” when asked by your browser to store your password.
  5. Consider a password manager or application to generate, store, and encrypt your passwords.
    • Remember: These programs are only as good as your master password. See tips 2 and 3.

Report all criminal activity to the authorities.

  • Collect any information on documents, conversations, and methods used to open accounts in your name.
  • File a police report with a detective at both your local police precinct and any precincts your information was used at.
  • Compile your evidence an create an ID Theft Affidavit.
  • Report identity theft with the FTC. You’ll use this report to close out fraudulent activity later.

Get proactive.

  • Close any new accounts that were opened in your name.
    • Figure out which businesses were affected, and contact their fraud department.
  • Request new credit and debit cards from your financial institutions.
    • Even if you have not experienced fraudulent charges, if your information has been compromised, it’s a good idea to be cautious.
    • Bonus tip: Don’t forget to update all of your automatic charges and subscriptions with your new payment information.
  • Actively monitor your credit.
    • Many commercial companies, including your bank, offer these services.

Remember: You can regain control.

With millions of individuals falling prey to hacking and identity theft every year, awareness and support for victims is better than it ever has been. However, restoring your credit and identity is only the first step. Continue to be careful and proactively monitor your digital and financial footprint.

Being hacked is no picnic. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to ward off hackers and cybercriminals.

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