Mary was in a dead panic. She was shaking and couldn’t even hold a pen to write down the instructions I was giving her. “How did this happen, Dave? How did my Hotmail account get hacked? What do I do?”
“It’s the ‘what do I do’ part that you need to focus on,” I replied. “There are many different ways that your email account could have been hacked and we could spend a lot of time trying to figure out what happened, but that can all wait. Right now, you need to take action. You need to fight back.”
“You need to change all of your financial accounts. You’ve already had one account compromised, which puts all of your other accounts at risk. You need to take action before any more money is stolen.”
“Change all of your passwords; all of them. Email, bank accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, eBay, PayPal, Facebook, Amazon, online bill-paying accounts, it doesn’t matter, change them all. Also, don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. If someone gets your Facebook password and it’s the same as your PayPal password, well...”
“Do all these things from a known secure computer, not the one you normally use. For all you know, your regular computer is virus-infected and has a key-logger installed, recording everything you type.”
“Treat the situation as if you are a total identity theft victim. Cancel your credit cards and have new ones issued. Tell your bank to give you a new account number and get a new pin number. Finally, make darn sure that your computer is not virus-infected before you use it online again.”
Later that day, Mary called to tell me about her progress and to ask a few questions. She told me “the lady at the bank” had sort of poo-pooed the idea of needing to change her bank account number. I told her to do it anyway. What did the lady at the bank have to lose in the situation? Nothing but a few moments of her time. What did Mary have to lose? Everything. I guarantee you that the bad guys of the Internet are much wiser in the ways of crime than the sweet lady at the bank.