Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

Here’s what happens when you’re hacked

The story of the garden disaster will have to wait because something more urgent came up. My phone was hacked. Then my bank account.

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Here’s how it happened.

Around 2pm on Sunday afternoon hackers took over my mobile phone number. I was at an engagement party so I didn’t notice the phone switch to ‘SOS only’. I’ve seen that happen when coverage is poor, so even if I had noticed I doubt I would have reacted. Maybe the signal wasn’t great in the hotel, maybe the phone provider had an outage, who knows. As it was, my phone was in my bag and I was at a party.

When I got home around 6.30pm I noticed the unusual ‘SOS only’ message. I switched off the phone, switched it on again and assumed Telstra had a problem. A niggling doubt made me ring them from the landline.

‘There seems to be something wrong with my mobile phone.’

I gave her my name, address and date of birth for verification.

‘Yes, you replaced the SIM.’

‘No I didn’t.’

‘You rang this afternoon.’

Had Clyde rung Telstra? Had they confused his number with mine? He was at a birthday dinner in the Blue Mountains and I was loath to interrupt him for something so trivial.

‘I didn’t ring. It wasn’t me.’

It turned out it wasn’t so trivial. Someone pretending to be me had rung, twice (the second time to ask for an upgraded phone) and they knew my name, address and date of birth. That was all they needed to take over my phone. Telstra blocked the number, advised me to go into a store with ID and I was left without a phone.

Then for some reason the landline stopped working, an unrelated problem that spooked me big time, so I went online to send Clyde a message and found an email from the bank.

We’ve noticed some unusual activity on your account…

Several thousand dollars had disappeared from my savings account.

I’d been hacked.

Here’s how they do it. The weak spot is your mobile phone. If a hacker has your name, address, date of birth and mobile phone number they can call your provider and take over your SIM. Your phone number is now their phone number. My birthday isn’t listed on Facebook but it doesn’t take a genius to spot ‘Happy Birthday’. I don’t know how they guessed the year but if I were you I’d be deleting any ‘Happy 21st’ or ‘Happy 40th’.

At some point they must have stolen a piece of mail, probably my bank statement, which gave them all the details they needed to phone the bank, pretend to be me, and perhaps claim they’d forgotten how to access phone banking. (The bank is naturally cagey on the details.)

So the bank checks I’m legitimate by sending a code to my mobile phone, only my mobile number now belongs to a hacker and Bingo! They’re into my account.

It’s that easy.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself.

Ask for an additional level of security on your phone. Set a password and tell your provider that any significant changes like porting your number will need your date of birth and that password.

If your computer doesn’t already have it, add anti-virus software, keep it updated, and use it regularly.

Even when the bank has changed your cards and your password, investigated the fraud and added extra security, double check the personal details they hold for you. After my account had been cleared to use, I discovered the hackers had left their mark. They’d changed the mailing address for my statements and the bank hadn’t picked up on it. The address was a unit where lots of people come and go and mail is intermittently collected. My mail!

It’s not as bad as it sounds. No-one got hurt. Banks are insured. The money will come back and it was no bad thing to add extra security and change all my passwords. I’ve asked for online statements from now on and I’ll also be letting the passport office and driving licence know in case they try to get copies made. And I told the police.

If you’ve been hacked and you’ve got any tips on what to do, please share them.

 

 

27 comments on “Here’s what happens when you’re hacked

  1. Eliza Waters
    March 2, 2017

    What a headache for you, Deb – glad you were able to recover your security and thanks for sharing the tips.

    Like

  2. monsoonwendy
    March 2, 2017

    What a headache indeed. Oh Deb, we are all so vulnerable now. Anytime I spend with someone younger leaves me fearful of where all the social media openness will lead. And don’t I sound like grandma!? This is a very helpful post so thank you! Hope your garden, in whatever state, is soaking up some rain!

    Like

    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      March 2, 2017

      The rain is so welcome, calling me out to the garden and away from this computer! Many worse things happen than being hacked, I’ll be super vigilant from now on. for a while…

      Like

  3. Jack Burke.
    March 2, 2017

    Deb. What a horror story. How easy it seems to be. I only have a prepaid push button mobile, switched off most of the time. The advantage of being retired, only switch it on to call other people. As for my computer I have always been careful not to keep personal details on it but of course others do sent greeting messages. Pay my bills by Bpay. There is always someone looking to make quick buck dishonestly.

    Take care.

    Thelma and Jack.

    Like

  4. Nandini Ray
    March 2, 2017

    Sobering. This sounds very stressful. Thank you for sharing the story.

    Like

    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      March 2, 2017

      Hi Nandini, it’s strange but I got more stressed about my garden disaster! I just felt relieved that the bank was onto it so quickly. Hope you’re doing okay

      Like

  5. nantubre
    March 2, 2017

    Thanks for sharing. Sorry you had to go through that.

    Like

  6. debhuntwasinbrokenhill
    March 2, 2017

    Far worse things happen to many people Nan, I count my blessings and run out of fingers

    Like

  7. Jennifer Atkins
    March 2, 2017

    Hi Deb, thanks for sharing your experience. I had no idea it was that easy! Until I mentioned to my son I had apparently “spent” a noninmal amount while travelling in the train to work. It seems there is an app you can download which, if you stand close enough to their PayPass card they can transfer lunch money to their account. It was only $11.00 and I didn’t contact the bank but I now have my card wrapped in heavy duty armour – aka Alfoil and old business cards. Can’t stop them but they won’t get any more pocket money from me.

    Like

    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      March 3, 2017

      I’ve heard about this and thought it was apocryphal. Not any more! Thanks for letting us know about this. You can also protect your passport in a similar way. No more free lunches!!

      Like

      • Jennifer Atkins
        March 3, 2017

        Oh absolutely 😎

        Like

  8. larryzb
    March 3, 2017

    I feel for you. Not having a cell or mobile phone, hacking worries only relate to my desk top PC.

    Like

    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      March 3, 2017

      Thanks Larry. It’s very tempting to follow your example. Hope your computer stays immune from hackers.

      Like

  9. Maggie Wilson
    March 3, 2017

    Thanks for sharing – I’ve changed my birthday settings on FB. This sounds like another good reason to hold on to my antique flip phone.

    Like

  10. rthepotter
    March 3, 2017

    Commiserations. Some people will steal anything that isn’t red hot or nailed down. Thanks for reminding to be careful.

    Like

  11. Ron Walker
    March 7, 2017

    I had my PayPal account compromised once. They got me for several hundred dollars. Some kid in Japan buying points for an online game. Glad you got it taken care of.

    Like

    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      March 7, 2017

      Hello Ron, sorry to hear you were scammed as well, it’s happening more and more often. Thanks for stopping by, I’ve enjoyed meandering through your blog. Best wishes, Deb

      Like

  12. candidkay
    March 8, 2017

    Oh, it’s all too easy to do now, isn’t it? I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with the hassle, but thankful they didn’t steal your identity entirely. I’ve had friends go through that and it’s awful.

    Like

    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      March 9, 2017

      Thx Kay, I think I escaped lightly, and it’s certainly made me increase security on my phone and laptop.

      Like

  13. bkpyett
    March 13, 2017

    Thanks for sharing this information, Deb. It sounds really scary, and so easy!
    I do hope you don’t have any more problems. BTW on your most recent post I couldn’t see where to make a comment. I love the way you are growing creepers on the wall. Rumi is inspirational! and I hope you no longer have challenges from the neighbour.

    Like

  14. debhuntwasinbrokenhill
    March 14, 2017

    Rumi and me are mates now! How did I approach the age of 60 without ever noticing him before? I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Not sure why the comments aren’t working, I’ll investigate, thanks Barbara

    Like

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This entry was posted on March 2, 2017 by and tagged , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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