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What do I do if I've been hacked? People say I'm spamming them with fake links in their emails!!

If someone has emailed you saying - you're sending out spam - you may have had your email address book stolen from a malware program, virus or hacker.

So what should you do?

I would start by not getting hacked...=) All kidding aside - it's important to know how this may have happened so you can prevent it in the future.

If your computer is behaving irradically, slow or causing issues - you could try to run a virus scanner or malware scanning program - to see if it gets fixed. Be careful because many "free" scans out there are actually full of more malware. Download a legitimate scanner like Mcafee, AVG, Symantec or TrendMicro - they are all legitimate companies that offer free scanning programs.

If a scan doesn't work and you are tech savvy - you can read tutorials from forums to see how to remove specific viruses based on the virus errors you've been able to discover.

If none of that works and you still have problems - you may need to wipe your computer and do a clean install.

Here' the low down on how all of this happens...

What happens is this:

Someone - clicks on a link in an email or clicks on a link in a web browser on a bad website, fake ad, spam email ,etc. There are so many legitimate looking things out there that look appealing enough that the average user clicks on it.

When you click - you see a flash of the screen or you go to a website that doesn't seem to be working or something.

What is happening at that point is your click approved an install of a program that is now running behind the scenes. So at some point it's looking at information on your computer and stealing info, turning on your camera, copying your email address book, etc.

Once they've stolen the data - they've gotten what they wanted. Few want to watch you through your camera or steal credit cards, many want email lists. There are plenty however trying to steal credit cards and passwords - but many of them do that by hacking websites.

Now they will spam your address book and pretend they are you. They pretend they are you so the people they are sending too (from your address book) will want to click on the link in the email and the cycle repeats.

Don't ever click on a link in an email from anyone - even if you know them - if there is no personal message that is legitimate.

Never click a link of a weird looking url.

Always hover links and buttons to make sure you see the URL - if it looks fishy - don't click.

You can also go to the root url to see if it's a legit company. Many times however companies use redirects of urls - to make it look more real or they make a url that is similar to google, amazon, paypal, etc.

Even if you see a logo like paypal, amazon, google, etc. and the email looks like its' from one of those companies - as well as the sender address - hover the links to see if they are the root of that company.

If not - it's a spoof email. Finally - if you're not expecting anything - put on your alert glasses. It's likely a spoof email trying to install spyware, trojan virus, worm or other malicious malware - no pun intended.

The rule of thumb is - be careful. You can avoid a lot of lost time by just being alert and knowing we live in a world where there are many dishonest people and companies trying to make a buck off of innocent people by stealing their information or hacking into your system.

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