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How to Know You've Been Hacked

With cybercriminals constantly prying at your door, it can be tough to know if one of them has gotten through your cyber-defenses.

A survey done by the Ponemon Institute found that 110 million Americans suffered a hacked account in 2013—that’s nearly half (47%) of U.S. adults. And in many cases, those individuals were hacked more than once—some 432 million accounts were breached that year.

Those numbers are frightening. If you haven’t started thinking  about cybersecurity—you should. Dealing with a hacked account is time consuming and stressful. But the sooner it is caught, the better. Here are some warning signs that you may have been hacked.

1. You notice strange charges on your debit or credit cards

This is a big one. If you notice charges on any of your financial accounts that you did not make, you should close those accounts immediately. Hackers will often “test” your account by making small charges first, so you should be on the lookout for strange charges of any amount.

You should sign up for text or email alerts on your debit and credit accounts so you can know instantaneously when a charge is made. If you did not make the charge, you should contact your bank or credit card company immediately to report the fraud and cancel your account.

2. You see emails you did not send

If there are emails in your sent mail that you did not send, chances are a hacker did. Often these emails will be sent to all your contacts and say that you are in trouble and need money right away. The hackers set up an account where your contacts can send money that they think is helping you, but it’s really going straight to a cybercriminal.

You should choose a strong and unique password for your email account. A hacked email is one of the most dangerous hacked accounts, because from your email, hackers can get into other accounts by resetting passwords. Remember to use numbers, special characters, and uppercase letters in your password to increase its strength. You should also set up two-factor authentication, which will protect you even if a hacker gets your password. This security measure requires you to enter an additional code (usually sent to your phone) after you enter your regular password in order to access your account.

3. Items appear on your social media accounts that you did not post

If you log on to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other account, and see posts that you did not make, you should be on alert. Chances are a hacker got into your account and made the posts. Generally, the posts are spam and the hacker gets paid for every click. Sometimes, the posts can be laced with malware that can put your followers and friends at risk.

Again, having strong passwords and setting up two-factor authentication can keep the hackers out of your accounts.

4. You can’t access your own accounts

You try to log into your online account and your password doesn’t work. There’s a good chance a hacker got in and changed it. If this is the case, you should contact the online service and report the fraud. They will be able to help you regain control of the account.