Strange things are happening with your computer--programs open and close as if by magic, and email seems simply to evaporate. Out of the blue an associate begins using a relative's trademark signature, and red flags emblazoned "hacker" provide instant clarity. Hacker attacks can erase information and destroy software and hardware; they often evoke the same feelings of revulsion and violation as being burglarized or hijacked. Federal law and state law both hold as a general rule of thumb that any act that would be a crime in the tangible world is also a crime in the virtual one. File charges against the computer hacker.
Collect as much information as possible about the suspected hacker: name, email, ISP, and even physical addresses will prove useful to authorities. Also make detailed notes concerning the incidents of missing email, files, and so on; be sure to include any damage to software or hardware.
Call the police or take your documentation to the nearest station and ask to file a criminal complaint. Answer all questions, written or verbal, thoroughly and obtain a copy of the report or file number. Ask the officer to explain the next step police will take and determine when it is reasonable to expect updates.
Consider filing a report with the FBI as well. Although not all hacker violations deemed criminal by any particular state may constitute a federal crime, they often do. A federal report can be filed online in just a few minutes at The Internet Crime Complaint Center (see resources).
Stay in contact with law enforcement agencies. Be available to provide additional information as need and request updates if the police has been out of contact for an extended period. Remember the investigator(s) may have many cases they are responsible for; strike a balance between being patient and persistent.
- Computer hacker crime can and often does result in stolen identities and blighted finances. Take protective measures immediately. Inform your credit bureaus and request a security freeze on your accounts. Notify credit and debit card companies; they will close current account numbers and issue replacement cards. Prompt notification of creditors will limit financial liability for fraudulent usage. Every facet of daily life, from phone service to passports, can fall vulnerable to a criminal hacker's efforts; the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse provides a detailed list of the steps required to recoup any damages and prevent further attacks (see resources).
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