It started with an email that I opened on my cellphone. Understand that I am pretty tech savvy and I know better than to click on links in emails that appear to be from my email carrier or bank, etc. I know better but because I was in a hurry, I opened the email that appeared to be from my Juno email carrier and I clicked the link...I immediately knew that I had made a terrible mistake. The link took me to an African website address.
My next step was to turn my phone off (didn't help) and to immediately go to my laptop to change the passwords on my email accounts and social media. It was really late in the evening so I thought, I would deal with the rest the next morning.
I woke up the next morning bright and early and tried to log on to my email accounts only to discover that not only had I been hacked but both my email accounts had been hijacked. No worries, there are safeguards for that right? I clicked on forgot password for my Gmail account. I had a verification code sent to my cellphone so that I could get back into my account. I turned on my cellphone only to discover that a few minutes before I was awake or online, the hacker had been busy getting a verification code by text message on MY phone! There was the code I had sent for and a previous code that I had not sent for.
My next step was to continue with the password change on my Google account and I went into my settings to change the verification phone number to my husband's cell phone number. I also removed my Juno email as the recovery email.
I spent quite a lot of time on the Juno website looking for a way to get into my account with them. This is an email account that I have had since the 80's. despite all my efforts I was unable to get back into my account. To make the sting even worse, Juno gave me a message that I had to call them in order to access my account again and that it would cost me $1.95 a minute or I could email them for free. I was desperate because this account was attached to some other things that were very important. I decided to go with the phone call. I gave them my debit card information and it was declined. This sent me into orbit because I was thinking the hacker must have accessed our checking account and cleaned us out! I didn't know what to do next. It took me a several minutes of prayer and a hot shower to calm down.
The prayer helped. My next move was to take a deep breath and call my banks. They asked me all the security questions and they helped me get rid of the Juno email from my accounts. Next was my primary bank that had just declined my debit card. I was grateful and relieved to discover that my account was not cleaned out. They are kind of a suspicious lot at my bank (God Bless Them!) They had been having lots of trouble with false charges through New York State and so for those customers who don't usually do business in New York they weren't allowing any charges unless we called. I was so very relieved to find out that our money was still safe in the bank. I was furious to find out that Juno had tried to charge my account $30 and they were still trying to put the charge through even though I had hung up before speaking to anyone! Not Cool Juno!!!
I went through my book where I keep all my passwords and contacted every single account that was associated with the Juno email and changed all of them. Every single account was helpful and quick to either cancel the account for me (so I could open a new one under a new email account) or to change the email and passwords. Every single one helped me either via phone or internet but it was done before the day was out. Every single one except Juno.
It has now been more than 36 hours since I contacted Juno by email and I have received a standard auto responder email, and another stating they were turning it over to their abuse department and would contact me within 24 hours. That means the hacker has 48 hours to check out all my information that can be gleaned from my Juno email account...(sigh). I'm hoping they at least shut it down from any use till they can investigate, but who knows?
Now, to deal with my phone. It took two phone calls to my carrier because the first person was not helpful. I decided to try again and ask for a supervisor this time (maybe they would know more). Here is what I learned from the phone call and quite a lot of research on the internet.
I needed to do a factory reset. This deleted everything from my phone and reset it to the factory default settings that it had when I first received my phone. Since then, I have received several strange phone calls. I answered one and no one was there. I decided to reset it again (better safe than sorry) Since then there have been several phone calls from numbers I do not recognize and I have decided not to answer them. I have been monitoring my Google accounts to make sure no one is accessing my account from anywhere except right here (thank you Google!)
Here is the takeaway lesson:
- Don't click links in emails on your phone or otherwise! (go directly to the website instead)
- If you do click the link on your phone, do a factory reset.
- Consider installing a malware protector on your phone.
- Monitor the phone for any suspicious activity*
- From a different device, Change all your passwords immediately!
- While you are there change all the contact and verification info to phone numbers and emails that the hackers don't have access to.
- Make any necessary phone calls (from a different phone) to contact any compromised accounts.
- Go to each account online and change passwords and emails.
- Monitor your accounts (that offer this) for any unauthorized access
- Make sure that your accounts have adequate security and response in the event the dreaded happens. If not, then change accounts.
- Beware on other devices. Apparently, Smart TV's are a security risk too (found out while researching about my phone)
- If all that doesn't help then a new cellphone may be the next step.
* Suspicious activity of hacked phones:
- Strange text messages
- Strange phone calls
- Unknown Charges on your Phone bill
- Charges double or triple the price on text messages (an app is causing your messages to be sent somewhere else too and you are paying for it.
- Poor or slow performance
- Redirected when on the internet
- lights up at night for no reason
- Games or apps open that you didn't open.
- The phone is warmer than normal
- The battery going down faster than usual.