Has Your Phone Been Hacked?
Nancy Patterson - August 20, 2019
You’re out and you need to concentrate on what you are doing. So what do you do to keep your very bored child from going nuts? Well if you are like most of us, you probably hand them your phone to download a game to keep them occupied. A few minutes goes by of the ever elusive silence, and then your child hands back the phone, with a question: “Mom, what happened?” Your phone has come alive! Screen after screen of pop up ads that make your skin crawl, and that your child definitely saw! You close everything out and chalk it up to the “grossness of the internet” and leave it at that.
Well a few days go by and you start noticing a your battery seems to be needing more juice and your data usage is hitting the ceiling. Frustrating? Of course! But this may be a sign that your phone has been hacked!
How Your Phone Can Be Hacked
Alright first of all. Why are you letting your child download apps on to your phone at his or her discretion, or doing so indiscriminately yourself!? This puts your phone at a big risk of malware! Malware is software that may look like a legitimate app (games, news etc.), but is in fact designed to gain access to your phone and/or files. This leaves you wide open to hackers to use your data to go for a shopping spree or make copies of all your account and personal data. In some cases, they may even get access to your bank as a result!
Bank accounts are often linked to your phone number. Not only that, it is often how your bank does its verification. How many times have you gotten a text verification from a bank or another type of account?
A hacker can also then put spyware on your phone. This type of malware can access things like your location, your movements and even in some cases the camera and microphone on your phone. In theory, hackers can take pictures of you getting into the shower in the morning if the situation is just right. Kind of scary!
80% of Americans now own a smartphone. This is up from 35% in just 2011! As a result, experts say that the threat of a phone hacks is on the rise. The more pray, the more hunters.
How To Know You’ve Been Hacked
So many frustrating things can start happening to your phone. Maybe your phone won’t let you get rid of unwanted apps. Or perhaps it won’t let you shut down or is crashing over and over again. Does this mean you’ve been hacked? It could, but it could also be a number of other issues. However, these can be important breadcrumbs on your way to discovering that you have in fact been hacked. If multiple behaviors on this list are happening at once there is a chance you have been infiltrated by malware or another malicious script.
Signs Your Phone Maybe Under Someone Else’s Control:
When you are noticing unwarranted data usage spikes in your plan that is a tell-tale sign that someone else has control of your phone!
Ads On Ads On Ads.
Are you getting an abnormal amount of pop up ads? Are they happening even when you aren’t using an app? Are you seeing them even when on government websites? If so, something is up!
Strange Browser Activity.
Are you all of a sudden seeing new icons or tools added to your browsers bar that weren’t there before? That could be very suspicious.
Activity You Don’t Recognize.
Does your phone say you’ve been to sites that you in fact haven’t? If you are seeing activity that you yourself did not do then you for sure have a problem!
What To Do When Your Phone is Hacked
All signs point to you having hacker taking advantage of your data usage and your activity. This can get expensive fast! Especially if your data is limited. So you may now be thinking “Well great I’ve been hacked, so what do I do to fix this?!” Well keep your pants on. It might not be as bad as it seems. In fact it might just be more of an inconvenience than an outright emergency.
Here are a few things you can do:
If your phone has stopped working:
- Step 1 is always to immediately contact your mobile carrier. A customer representative can help walk you through what happened and what the current status of your plan and phone are. Alerting them to this activity is important in case someone tries to cancel your plan and get a new phone shipped to them (pretending to be you). They will likely have you go into a store location.
- Security is important. Log into your mobile account and change your password as well as any extra features you may have set like your pin code.
- Report the theft on the FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission) IdentityTheft.gov website. You will receive instructions for issuing a fraud alert and checking your credit report.
If your phone still works but is acting strangely:
- Immediately Stop Using it to Shop or Bank or do anything that requires you to use or enter your sensitive data (passwords included!)
- IMPORTANT: Update ALL software. Then scan for viruses and spyware. If this is tricky for you to do yourself get help! The company where you got your phone may be able to help you with this for FREE.
- If you think some of your sensitive data was compromised. You may want to do what is called a “Factory Reset”. Every phone has a walk through on how to perform a factory reset. Just Google “Factory Reset for _____” and enter the phone type in the space. You will find step by step instructions for EVERY phone. Email yourself your photos and other files you want to keep. Don’t copy them over and do NOT give your phone access to a Dropbox account or google drive or anything of that nature. Emailing them is safer.
- File a complaint with the FTC and report it to your local police.
- Monitor your personal data with CheckPeople to see if it may have been breached.