How to Fix: Hackers Hacked My Phone, Demand Bitcoin (Scam)

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Infopackets Reader Nathan J. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I recently received an email stating that hackers have hacked my phone. As proof of their hack, they gave me the last 2 digits of my phone number. They claim to have uploaded spying software on my phone and have supposedly 'caught me' visiting raunchy websites. To keep this quiet, they are demanding bitcoin payment of $800 USD. How can they hack my phone like this? Can they hack my PC too? Should I be worried? "

My response:

This is yet another version of the same scam that is currently going around the Internet.

Related: How to Fix: Hackers Hacked My Email, Demand Bitcoin (Scam)

The facts is, hackers have not hacked your phone and you do not need to pay them any money. The entire message is a lie and they cannot hack your phone or your PC just because they say so.

Explained: Here's How the Scam Works

The "hacking proof" they have provided you (the last few digits of your phone number, and your valid email address) was either stolen from a database somewhere on the Internet - most likely from Facebook's databases, which were breached in July 2017, affecting 50 million users - or scraped off a website that uses 2-factor authentication.

In the latter case: if you forget your password on Gmail (or any other major email provider) and needed to reset it, you would enter in your email address in a form, then the email provider will respond with a message stating that "We've sent a password reset link to your cell phone ending in xxx-xxx-xx42".

Scammers will combine the information they collected about you with a scam template message, then fire off the same message to millions of people. Since the information is valid, many people fall for the scam. But, as I said, this is all a lie designed to con people into handing over their money.

How to Fix: Hackers Hacked My Phone, Demand Bitcoin (Scam)

Now that you know how the scam operates, you can safely delete the message and similar messages in the future that claim you've been hacked and bitcoin is demanded.

Moving forward, you should change your passwords on all the sites you visit. Make sure the passwords you use are unique and strong; I suggest using a password manage for this (such as RoboForm). You should never, ever use the same password on more than one site.

The reasoning here is that scammers can use this information to gain access to other sites you visit, once a database has been breached. Once that happens, they can use whatever information they collect about you to propagate more scams.

If you use different passwords on all the sites you visit, you severely limit the potential attack vector.

Still Think You've Been Hacked? I Can Help

If you are still concerned that you may have been hacked despite what I've just said, I suggest you hire a professional - like myself - to provide a security audit of your system. My contact link is here; you can review my credentials here. You can also read this page which explains how to protect yourself from being hacked; here's another article explaining how to protect yourself against ransomware - both articles were written by me. If you're still not sure, consider hiring me to investigate.

Sample Scam Message from "Hackers" that "Hacked My Phone"

Here's a sample message in case anyone is interested in reading it. The English in the message is horrendous:

It seems that, xx42, part num your phone.

I view your device. I am in stupefaction of your raunchy fantasies! I made video from your photographic camera from yours devices.

You destress, I record video. I made accumulation your contacts and files. I want 835 $ to my +Bitcoin

My @Bitcoin coin purse 1AjgBp2S3GuD9pyySTZWgqsBpixDNosbDU

If YOU don't convey *Bitcoin. I share this scandalize of your crude film fantasies. With yours contacts! If you do not know how to do this - enter into Google (how to transfer money to a Bitcoin# wallet). You Have Time - 30 hours.

You see grammatical mistakes? Yes! I do this special, to not find me. All post and facebook have analyze writing style.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question - or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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