If you have ever, for any reason, had a Yahoo email account or used the search engine in any sort of personalized way, then the odds are pretty good that at least a little bit of your personal information is now floating around out there in the ether waiting for a hacker to take a shot at hijacking your identity in the present day. Earlier this month, Yahoo disclosed that it had fallen victim to the largest data breach on record, with 1 billion user accounts being compromised. This came far too close for comfort on the heels of an additional disclosure about another 500-million-user hack that occurred in 2014.

If you are a victim, the bad news is that your information has been out there for a while – literally years. Yahoo discovered the attack recently, but it actually occurred in August 2013. Hackers who have yet to be identified stole names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates and passwords, and it’s not clear whether all the accounts belonged to current users or not. This means that if you ever had a Yahoo account and entered your personal information in order to create it, the odds are good that the hackers have some private information to go on when taking a stab at your existing accounts, even if they are on other networks.

The issue is particularly serious since most internet users tend to have only a few “favorite” passwords that they use for every account that they own. While they may create variations on this password, an experienced hacker can often figure out the variations easily and then access multiple accounts that a user is not even monitoring closely because he or she believes that the account is not at risk. Furthermore, hackers can use your private information to reset existing passwords, access your bank accounts, and even cancel debit cards and order new ones in your name.

There have even been instances where hackers posed as real estate professionals or lenders and conned buyers into sending earnest money and down payments in the form of certified checks to the hackers rather than to the actual institution. As you might imagine, there is often little recourse for getting your money back should you fall victim to this type of scam.

Yahoo recommends that all current users change all their passwords and security questions as well as implementing a two-step login process that requires them to verify via a code sent to their phone that they are, indeed, attempting to log in. The search engine also warned against clicking links that appear to be from Yahoo and against downloading attachments allegedly from Yahoo. These attachments can contain viruses or spyware. Yahoo said that it will not request personal information from users and does not send links and attachments via email.


About the Author

Carole VanSickle Ellis is the host of Real Estate Investing Today, a daily nine-minute investing podcast, and the editor of the Bryan Ellis Investing Letter. Contact her at editor@bryanellis.com or visit www.investing.bryanellis.com.



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  • Carole VanSickle Ellis

    Carole VanSickle Ellis serves as the news editor and COO of Self-Directed Investor (SDI) Society, a membership organization dedicated to the needs of self-directed investors interested in alternative investment vehicles, including real estate. Learn more at SelfDirected.org or reach Carole directly by emailing Carole@selfdirected.org.

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