“When it comes to being hacked, what’s the worst that can happen?”
Well, let’s begin by saying that you don’t want to find out the hard way (by actually getting hacked). From public embarrassment to a virtually complete theft of your persona, at least on paper, a worst case scenario means complete misery.
Not all hacks are equal. On the low end of the spectrum, someone could get hold of some embarrassing photos of you, and share them freely across social media. Or, they could upload a virus that just clogs up your machine and perhaps costs a few bucks to fix but doesn’t harvest your personal information.
But, again, when it comes to a doomsday scenario, cybercrime that reveals your passwords and social security number purports to be the most damaging (particularly to us non-celebrities). As you know, your SSN is the golden ticket to your identity.
If that happens, you could have front row seats to helplessly watch the quick and painful demise of your credit history, your financial well-being, your reputation, and eventually your free time (spent trying to rectify such a disaster.)
Here are a few common ways such misfortune takes place.
Criminals privy to your private information will pose as you, sending emails to your doctor and accountant requesting documents that show your Social Security number.
Then, with full access to your credit history, they may obtain credit cards and in some cases (more than you would believe) bank loans in your name. Sure, eventually you will figure out what’s been going on, but when you do, you had better believe that “troublesome cleanup” is the understatement of the year.
Most victims must work with all three credit bureaus and the federal government. You may even have to change your Social Security number, which is less than ideal for someone who has spent the last thirty years ensuring impeccable credit history. And garnering approval for that “when all else fails” tactic may prove to be the most difficult exercise of all.
There some other situations that can be just as devastating. Some well-trained deviant hackers will actually email friends and family asking them to wire money their way due to some unforeseen emergency. This type of scam is often known as the “Hi, Grandma.”
Some hackers are so well-rehearsed they often succeed in procuring information from close family/friends they can ultimately use to blackmail their victims.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. By merely accessing your bills cybercriminals can get into your cell phone and other monthly services. They could get another device, rack up charges, etc. And because most don’t pay close attention, they can get away with it for long periods of time.
While none of these scenarios necessarily mean the difference between life and death, to find oneself victimized is to know the sting of some serious aggravation. The good news is, you can proactively prevent this sort of thing.
Change passwords regularly, make sure you have a good anti-virus on your machine, and make sure you allow your computer to update to new, available software versions regularly. If you have a WordPress site (1 in 4 new sites are) there is a great free scanner we offer to ensure cybercriminals can’t get to you through your site (and if you’re vulnerable, there is a shield that will keep your WP site locked down tight.)
Here’s the thing, if you are proactive and take extra measures to keep yourself protected, the likelihood that you will be victimized decreases considerably. Think about it. There are so many people who do not take any precautionary steps – they are the preferred prey for hackers. Take the time and be diligent, chances are you will never have a problem – as you will likely be viewed as being not worth the hassle.