Cyber Threat Blog

My family member’s email account was hacked, what can I do?

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Scammers have taken advantage of our human nature to trust people that we associate with for as long as scams have been in existence. There are countless stories about victims duped into selling a “new investment opportunity” or “no risk vacation real estate” to their friends and family.  In the cyber world, scammers are using this ploy to propagate their scams by stealing the email accounts of people you know and then pretending to be someone you trust.

 

We are smarter today at identifying spam and phishing emails than we were years ago.  High quality email filters block over 90% of spam and consumers today are more aware and able to self identify phishing emails.  This has made it harder for scammers and they are dusting off their age tricks in a new way to defeat these defenses.

Hijacking trusted email accounts is the modus operandi in the scamming world today.  These trusted email accounts are those of someone you know, like a family member or friend.  The scammer knows that when an email comes from a family member or friend, you are more likely to open an attachment or click on a link.  A hacked email account is more valuable today than the most naive stooge used in scams of the past.

We have observed multiple scam attempts using this method against our clients.  A typical con beings when one of our clients receives an email from a friend’s email address along with a truth that our client might know.  This truth could be the fact that our client’s friend is on vacation in a foreign country.  The email typically contains language similar to the following: 

  • “In tears …. overseas and lost [purse/wallet/luggage]”
  • “Stranded in [insert name] country … mugged and passport stolen”
  • “Down to our last dollar … donate to cancer fund for [insert name]“

These scams are some of the most deplorable because they take advantage of our human qualities to trust and help those in need. Taking action quickly to halt these types of scams is something that everyone can contribute to.  The major email providers have simple processes for you to report a hacked email account.

  • Gmail 
    • If you have a Gmail Account
    • If you don't have a Google account, forward the email and relevant information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Yahoo
    • If you have a Yahoo Account
    • If you don't have a Yahoo account, forward the email and relevant information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Outlook.com or Hotmail
    • If you have an Outlook.com or Hotmail account
    • If you don't have an Outlook.com or Hotmail account, forward the email and relevant information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Other email and internet providers

Another set of resources to help fight these scams are clearing houses that collect information about phishing scams.  This information is then shared with with the public and security companies to develop stronger filters and make people more aware of the scammer’s tactics.

A few of these clearing houses you can submit phishing scams to are:

  • PhishTank
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by forwarding the email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 


 John Riley is the Director of Cyber Intelligence at Private Client Cyber Security and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


 

About Private Client Cyber Security

We provide enterprise grade cyber security services to professional practices and high net worth clients.

Founded by former defense industry executives who recognized that small to medium sized business are underserved by large cyber security companies.

We strive to provide a personal, professional and a next generation technology level of cyber protection to our clients. 

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