Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Email Got Hacked! Please Read and Respond

I recently received a very official looking email from AOL telling me I must reset my email password or my account would be shut down. My first conversation with AOL was with Jessica Brown in Tech Support. She was helpful after hearing my concern, confirmed my account information and said my email account had been hacked and was being accessed by someone in Europe. She described the intrusion as a Trojan virus and said whoever had hacked me had access to everything on my computer. She spent several minutes explaining in increasingly ominous detail all the horrible things the hacker could do with the high-jacked information and spent several more minutes examining my IP address and other technical info, then said could change my IP address routing and Windows Proxy Server for a charge of $200. I declined (she hung up on me immediately after) and made two more calls to Dontrea in Customer Service, and Ulysses Moring in in Customer Care before leaving a call for the President of AOL, Tim Armstrong (who has still not replied). 

When an additional email arrived in my inbox with a strange message, I called AOL’s Fraud Department and followed the suggestion of somebody named Francis (they won’t give you a last name), sending this email:

abuse <> 
Date: Tue, Feb 19, 2013 3:34 pm
Attached is a screenshot of a fraudulent email allegedly from AOL.

At the bottom of the screenshot is the URL where the link in the email is directed.
My AOL account was hacked in the past two weeks telling me to change my email
or my AOL account would be closed. After discussing this matter with representatives
of three AOL departments who wanted to sell me services instead of solving my problem
or allaying my concerns, I called the Fraud Department and am following up with this
email as instructed.

I want to be assured that my AOL account is not compromised, that you have
addressed this issue, and precisely what actions have been taken
by AOL.

I respectfully request that you report to me on a resolution of this matter.
Please reply to my alternate email address - I am not certain that my AOL account is secure.
Thank you for your attention.

After conferring with our local pc guru, we did a system restore (a free security feature built in to PCs) which restores the computer software and drivers exactly as they were before the problem existed (without affecting any documents or photos), followed by a thorough virus scan. Then I changed my passwords for the second time.
The point of this story is three-fold …

Be on the lookout for official looking emails from any company (AOL, banks, PayPal) which threatens account access limitations or cancellation if you fail to update info. If you do get such an email, log OUT of your email and go directly to the company or bank’s website to log in and make changes.

DO NOT click on a link in an email to update your information … always log in from the website.

Email accounts get hacked. I am told there are 300,000 hackings daily. Getting assistance online is convenient, but often the problem is not anywhere close to as horrible as the customer service rep describes – they do get paid a commission when they sell service. The trouble with dealing with someone online – you are very unlikely to get the same person again if the problem reoccurs. Deal locally if you really need help.

Just FYI (because ‘tis the season), the IRS will NEVER contact you by email for any reason.  Banks and financial institutions might send you email, but will never provide a link for you to click on. I have also found that hackers frequently make grammar and spelling errors, a dead giveaway that they are scammers.

If I were more prudent about my computer habits, I probably would avoid some of the problems I have had.

This is most certainly a subject I didn’t want to write about. But this morning I received an email from my hairdresser telling me that she had been hacked and don’t open any attachments that come with something that appears to be sent from her. Only your hairdresser knows for sure.

I will continue this report if there is more BREAKING NEWS because I don’t want my Trojan Virus to spread.

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