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  1. Caregiver Specialist Heather Resnick on Caregiver Support
  2. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
  3. Guardianship
  4. Center Launches North Shore Senior Options
  5. On Blindness, Alzheimer's and Love
  6. Shared Vision: Winnetka Congregational Church Woman's Society Benevolence Committee
  7. Protecting Seniors and Adults with Disabilities: Adult Protective Services
  8. A Jack of All Trades: Al Davis
  9. Family Tradition: Gone Fishin'
  10. Dedicated Volunteer: Fern Kamen
  11. Generous Soul: Mitchell Slotnick
  12. Assessing the Older Adult Members of your Family
  13. Giving Back: Fay Goldblatt
  14. Adult Protective Services (APS) Program Benefits from Shamrock Shindig
  15. Humble Beginnings: Bobbi Halloran

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What to Do If One of Your Online Accounts is Compromised

February 04, 2014

By George Lowman
Technology Learning Center Volunteer Instructor



Every day there seems to be a new article or television news story about online accounts being attacked by nefarious no-names, who will use the data they steal to make unauthorized purchases, to break into banking, financial or credit card accounts to transfer your money to their own accounts, or to use the information to open new accounts in your name without your knowledge. What can you do?


There are a number of tactics you can use to make it more difficult for bad guys to break into your accounts, and steps you can take if you believe that your own data has been compromised. And remember, your accounts can be attacked even if you don’t go online. Do you really know what the salesperson, waiter, or the telephone sales agent is doing with the information you are giving them? With a little knowledge, you can protect yourself.


So, How Do Bad Guys Get Your Information?

The recent articles about data theft have focused on large companies which are “hacked” by bad guys. Hacked means somebody used unscrupulous methods to get into a store or company’s computers to steal account information. Sometimes they steal your name, account number, expiration date, and security code information. Sometimes, they steal only your email address. If they steal all your account information and security codes, they will make counterfeit cards with which they can purchase items either at a store or online. If they steal only your email address, they will send you fake emails allegedly from the real company asking you to verify your account information such as your name, address, telephone number, account number, password, etc. No real company will ask you for this kind of information in an unsolicited email. If you respond, they then have enough information to either access your account or to set up a new account using your information that you have just given them.


Be Very Paranoid

Be very suspicious of any email you receive. Even an email coming from your grandchild or good friend might be coming from bad guys who hacked their account. You should be suspicious of any email that asks you to click a link for any information. If an email includes a telephone number to verify the credibility of the email or just to ask questions, do not use that telephone number to call back. Get the telephone number independently such as the 800-number on the back of your credit cards or go to the website (gethuman.com) or App “GetHuman,” which provides telephone numbers for most stores and organizations.


OK, But What Do You Do?

1. Use unique passwords for any account that involves money, i.e. your banks, financial accounts, credit cards, or stores such as Amazon or the Apple Store which have a credit card number attached to them. Yes, bad guys will try to use a password that they have stolen from one account on your other accounts. Many people use the same password on all their accounts. Bad idea.


2. Use a password that is at least eight characters but longer is better. Do not use “password,” “12345678,” pet names, addresses, or any word in a dictionary. Don’t tape your password to your computer. Don’t share it with anybody – this includes your grandchildren.


3. Setup online access to your credit cards, and check them regularly. Call the 800 number on the back of your credit card immediately if you have any questions.


4. Be very suspicious of any links in any email. If you click on a link and your computer behaves in any unusual way, disconnect it from the internet. That is, unplug the computer or router from the cable that connects to the internet. This way, the bad guys cannot send an email to all your friends saying that you need money because you were mugged in London.


5. Make sure you have a current version of good antivirus software that is set to “automatic updates.”


Most importantly, please use the resources of the North Shore Senior Center’s Technology Learning Center. (It’s no accident that we shorten Technology Learning Center to “TLC.”) In addition to the many courses taught Mondays through Thursdays, they are open every Friday morning from 10 a.m. to noon. You will get free technical help on how to protect yourself from the bad guys or any other technology related issue.


Lastly, always remember:

Nobody from Nigeria is giving you $40 Million
Russian beauties are not looking to date you
FedEx, UPS or the USPS is not holding a valuable package
Your friend was not mugged in London
Your anti-virus program has not expired
Your bank did not lose your password
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is (My mother told me that)


The Department of Homeland Security has an outstanding online section about keeping your computer activities safe.