Identity Theft Awareness: FTC Advises Consumers on Dealing With Hacked Email or Social Networking Accounts


With identity theft at an all-time high, there’s no such thing as taking too many precautions to secure your online safety and security.

For example, the Federal Trade Commission has new tips to help people deal with email and social networking hacks, whether it’s lessening the chances of a hack in the first place, or recovering from a hack once it happens. Entitled Hacked Email, the new FTC guide and website shares a wealth of online security information and points out the many ways that an account may have been hacked.

What to Do BEFORE You’re Hacked

  • Use unique passwords for important sites like banking and email.
  • Safeguard user names and passwords.
  • Turn on two-factor authentication if a service provider offers it.
  • Do not click on links or open attachments from unknown users.
  • Download free software from trustworthy sites only.
  • When using a public computer, do not let web browsers remember passwords, and log out of all accounts when finished.

What to Do AFTER You’ve Been Hacked

  • Make sure security software is up-to-date and delete malware.
  • Change passwords.
  • Check with your email provider or social networking site for information about restoring the account.
  • Check account settings.
  • Tell your friends.

Hacking Happens — Everywhere

But in case you don’t think hacking can happen to you — check out the following statistics from our friends at the Identity Theft Resource Center. The links provide startling insights into which companies are being hacked — and the associated numbers reflect the amount (reported, at least — who knows how many cases are unreported) of sensitive private records exposed each year!

  • 2005 – 66,853,201
  • 2006 – 19,137,844
  • 2007 – 127,717,243
  • 2008 – 35,691,255
  • 2009 – 223,146,989
  • 2010 – 16,167,542
  • 2011 – 22,918,441
  • 2012 – 17,491,690
  • 2013 – 6,413,028
  • Total – 535,267,233

Yes, that’s right — 535,267,233 private records have been compromised since the ITRC started keeping track in 2005.

It’s obvious that 2009 was the worst year for data breaches. Even scarier, in 2009, about 75% of the reported compromises were online data breaches. And out of the 498 breaches actually reported that year, only six victims said they were using encryption or a similar security measure!

So in addition to the advice from the FTC, take our advice and use a personal VPN like Private WiFi to encrypt all of your online communications. If it’s happening to companies big and small, it’s only a matter of time before it happens to you! Don’t allow someone to compromise your sensitive personal data.


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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.