If you've fallen victim to a scam, you're not alone. James O'Malley shares what to do when you've been scammed
It’s all too easy to do: You get a text message that appears to be from a real delivery company, so you click the link and fill in your details…and then realise you’ve made a terrible mistake. The scammers now have your login credentials and an enormous opportunity to cause chaos in your life.
So what should you do if it happens to you?
Lock down what you can
First we need to cauterise the wound: If you still have access to whatever was compromised, login and change your password immediately.
The next step, however, is just as important. Ultimately, your goal in the immediate aftermath of getting scammed should be to lock down your most important apps. Though it is annoying if hackers get into your takeaway app, it could be actively devastating if they get into something more important like your emails, your banking app, or your Facebook account. If a hacker can get into your emails, they can use them to break into other parts of your digital life more easily.
Changing your passwords is a good first step
So if you use the same password to login to other apps or services, then it is important to change your password everywhere else that you use it too.
"If you still have access to whatever was compromised, change your password immediately"
It’s also worth digging into the account settings on many of your most important apps. The big players like Google, Facebook and Amazon let you see which devices you’ve logged in on. This means you can see if the hackers have already got in, and remotely log them out if there’s a phone or computer you don’t recognise on the list.
And if the hackers got your credit card details? Of course, you should contact your bank—but don’t forget to check your banking app, as many let you freeze your card in seconds just at the tap of a button.
Plan for next time
Once the initial panic is over, it’s important to think carefully about your digital life, and how you can prepare better to stop the same thing happening again.
The single easiest thing you can do is enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on your accounts, which is supported by most major services. This means that, for example, when you login to Gmail, you’ll get sent a text message containing a code that essentially proves that you really are who you say you are, and not just someone who knows the password. Yes, it makes logging into things slightly more annoying, but it does make you much more difficult to target, as the hacker would also need access to your phone.
Two-factor authentication is a good way to keep your accounts secure
However, once you’ve set that up you have more work ahead. To maintain good digital hygiene, you should make sure that you use unique passwords for every app and service you use. This is to stop the problem described above: If one of your passwords is compromised, it doesn’t mean everything is compromised.
This is less annoying than it sounds, as there are special apps called Password Managers you can get that act like a little black book in which you can safely store your login credentials. You can unlock rgwaw by remembering only a single password. I cannot stress enough just how strongly I recommend trying one out.
The final step is to simply be vigilant. Now you’ve been scammed, a little more of your digital life is potentially out there—which means that it could be even easier to scam you again. If a hacker can find out something about you, like where you live or your mother’s maiden name, they can mention it in another fraudulent communication to try and persuade you that it is legitimate.
"The final step is to simply be vigilant"
So it’s important to remain careful. When you get a suspicious email from a company asking you to login, don’t click the link. Manually navigate to their website in your web browser instead. And if that special offer sounds too good to be true? Well, it probably is.
Read more: How to spot a Facebook scam
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