Guard Your Identity

Treat your password like your toothbrush.  Don’t let anybody else use it, and get a new one every six months.  ~Clifford Stoll, American astronomer and teacher

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit I took the lazy way out with my post on Wednesday, but as usual, there’s a perfectly logical reason.

I was up to my ears trying to resolve yet another hacking!

Say, what? You’ve got to be kidding. Didn’t that just happen?

Yes, it did, but this time, it was my LinkedIn account, and I’ve got to warn you, it wasn’t pretty.

On Jan. 29, LinkedIn notified me my account was accessed from an unfamiliar location. Wanting to make sure it was me, they suggested I sign in with a verification code and change my password.

I tried but couldn’t, even though I tended to it immediately, rather than waiting until Monday.

So I emailed them explaining the situation and asking for their help.

About two hours later, LinkedIn notified me that I’d added a new email address to my account. No, I hadn’t. Why would I add a stranger’s name to my listing?

Again, I tried to log in to change my password. Nothing. This hacker had removed my email address and made his the primary contact, thereby giving him all sorts of time to wreak havoc.

I sent LinkedIn another email for help. In fact, I sent them an email Every Single Day For Five Days until I finally heard from one of their “Trust and Security” folks.

She outlined the exact steps I’d need to take to resolve the problem — and they weren’t what you’d call easy. I had to complete a verification of identity, have it notarized, and attach it to a reply email (that, or provide documentation such as a photo ID, drivers license, passport, or some such.). Then I needed to change my password, remove the hacker’s address, and follow LinkedIn’s suggestions on account security.

Once I finally re-accessed my account, I found ALL SORTS of changes — my photo was removed, my recommendations and endorsements were gone, my business summary was deleted, and the hacker had used MY connections to promote a Mystery Shopper scam! Grrr.

You know, all of us balk at too much security, but sometimes we have to trade unlimited freedom for protection, don’t you think?

Anyway, I’m gratified to learn lots of people recognized I wasn’t the author of these missives and guessed it was a scam (thanks, friends!). And I’m slowly recreating my profile. LinkedIn doesn’t keep details like this, so I’m on my own. Gee, I wonder why I had to prove who I was, yet some bozo was able to become me quite easily??

Take-away advice: Do everything possible to protect your identity. Create strong passwords (NOT the same one for every site you visit!) Use a two-step verification process. Don’t access sensitive material on public computers. Be sure to sign out once you’re finished with a site. And for heaven’s sake, don’t think it can’t happen to you!

28 thoughts on “Guard Your Identity

  1. So sorry you experienced all that! And I’ve thought my last few days have been stressful…this puts things in perspective.

    • It was an aggravation — one kind of feels raked over the coals, you know! Well, sometimes lessons have to be learned the hard way. Sorry it’s been a trying week for you, too!

  2. Poor you! I once had my e-mail hacked and it wasn’t fun. Sounds like Linkedin didn’t exactly pull out all the stops to help. I think I’ve heard before that they’re quite prone to being hacked.

    • If I didn’t need to be on LinkedIn, I’d think twice about keeping my account! It’s very maddening for this sort of thing to transpire — and oddest of all, I couldn’t Google any information to confirm whether this was my account only or if others were involved. Misery loves company, you know!! Sorry your email was hacked — I can only shiver at the mess that would entail!

  3. Debbie, I am so sorry you had to go through this mess. And yet, again with another hacking. What a production it was to get this all straightened out. I bet you were exhausted.

    “all of us balk at too much security, but sometimes we have to trade unlimited freedom for protection, don’t you think?”

    You’re absolutely right. I used to get so upset when someone would ask to see proof of identity whenever I would use my debit card to make a purchase. However, after reading about how many times people’s cards have been stolen and used illegally, I now THANK the person for checking to make sure it’s me.

    “Be sure to sign out once you’re finished with a site.”

    Yes, that I do. I also clear my browser history a few times a week.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, my friend!

    • Ron, thanks for commiserating in my troubles! It’s certainly been a frustrating year thus far. And to think I suffered through all those black-eyed peas, cabbage, and ham on New Year’s Day, in hopes of having a GOOD year, ha!!

      Good for you, clearing your browser history. I know it’s a nuisance, but as you said, prevention is much better than having to wrestle problems afterward.

      Have a great Friday! xo

  4. Oh, gosh.What a mess. Since I’ve not been active with LinkedIn, but only have an account there, I’ve been thinking I might as well drop it, and now I think I will. You’re in a different situation because of your business, but my business has no need of social media. I like Twitter for a variety of reasons, but I’ve stayed away from Facebook, Pinterest, and so on. I have a Paypal account, but don’t do any online banking or bill paying. So far, so good.

    What I do get are emails from friends with Yahoo accounts. They’ve obviously been hacked, and someone has sent out emails to their entire contact list. Anyone who uses Yahoo or AOL for email is just asking for it, in my opinion.

    Ah, well. I’m glad things worked out, despite the frustrations. And now, I believe I’m going to back up my files again — just for grins.

    • Linda, if I didn’t need to be on LinkedIn, I wouldn’t be! However, I have reconnected with lots of folks I crossed paths with over my working life, and that alone is worthwhile. I’m not a Facebook fan, either, but I do have Pinterest and Twitter accounts.

      Yes, I’ve deleted my Yahoo account, too. I wasn’t using it at all, and I didn’t see much sense in giving potential hackers another target. You know, twice in one month is a bit on the ridiculous side. Perhaps instead of debating whether we need to fund free college educations for young people, we should be trying to find all the hackers and taking away their computers!

  5. How scary. Actually, I was the recipient of one of those emails sent from your account, but I’ve been so busy getting ready for Brazil that I never opened it until just now. It took me to Linkedin but you probably got it cleared because there was no message from you in my in box. I’m glad you caught it and I will take heed. Lesson learned!

    • Well, you make a good point, Professor. At least they alerted me there was a problem (though why it was allowed to get this far puzzles me). I suppose it’s a case of success being its own downfall — I mean, who’d bother hacking an account with 10 connections when you can hack one with more than 500?!?

    • I know, right?? It’s crazy that some stranger can unlock our “online homes” and we can’t do too much to prevent it. Perhaps forewarned is forearmed, or something like that! xo

  6. I wonder if the hacker made any $ on all of this. I’m going to consider getting rid of my linked-in….now that I’m retired I don’t need it. PLUS, when I WAS working I was too busy to look at it, so I never really did use it.

    • Money is always their aim, isn’t it? I’m just glad my connections didn’t believe I’d lost my mind and started bombarding them with solicitations! I don’t blame you a bit for thinking hard about deleting your LinkedIn account, Dawn. If I didn’t need mine, I might think seriously about doing the same thing!

  7. I’m sorry Deb that you had to go through this! Thank you for the advice about hack prevention. My bank account got hacked this summer. It was sooo upsetting! I hope this will be your last hack.

    • Your bank account?? That must have been so frustrating, Tanya. I trust you got it all ironed out? This was a mess I’m still trying to fix, but thankfully, I think I’m on the right track now. Two hacks this early in the year doesn’t make Debbie happy!!

  8. What a pain in the Link… frustrating, I’m sure. Well, I know, I’ve been there. Unfortunately, probably most of us have been. Can’t people find something better to do? Something, I don’t know, honest?

  9. I guess I’ll be grateful that it was just my Instagram account (which I barely use) that got hacked last week. It was humiliating though. The hacker replaced my profile photo with a naughty one, added a link to his own sketchy website, and added a bio inviting visitors to come view more naked girls on the website. As far as I can tell, Instagram notified me immediately. And I was able to put things right again the same day.

    But I think I’ll go check in on my LinkdIn account now …

    • Golly, Tee, that must have been awful! I don’t do Instagram, so no hacking there; glad you got everything restored to decency and sanity. Yep, better check LinkedIn as well — those hackers are getting more and more clever.

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