Tech Matters: What to do when your Netflix account is hacked
Ah, the search for something to watch on Netflix. If you’re a Netflix customer, you’re familiar with all of the ways Netflix suggests a show you might like to watch. There’s “Continue Watching,” “Members With Similar Tastes Liked” and groupings of shows by genres that match what you’ve recently watched. But what does it mean when those recommendations suddenly change? Your account has likely been hacked.
This recently happened to me. My top recommendation was an action-adventure film in Korean. Several days later, a new grouping appeared: Korean TV shows. Indeed, I visited Korea last fall, but I don’t speak Korean and I’ve never watched Korean programming. Clearly, something was amiss. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what to do.
Head over to your computer and log in to your Netflix account. Select your profile and you’ll be on the main Netflix menu. Hover over your profile icon and select “Account” from the dropdown menu. Scroll down to the “Security & Privacy” section and click on the link that says “Manage access and devices.” You’ll see a list of devices with the date and time last watched. I saw my phone and my TV, but I also saw a PC and an Android phone, which were both unfamiliar. (You may have shared your account with a friend or family member and you may or may not want to keep sharing.)
To stop sharing your account, you’ll want to remove the devices associated with these users. This is a two-step process. First, click on the “Sign-out” button next to all unfamiliar accounts and then go back to your account page and change your password. Make sure that this is a password that you haven’t used before and keep it unique to Netflix. Anyone who was using your account will no longer be able to sign in now that you have a new password.
You may be wondering how someone unknown to you got access to your Netflix account and if this happens frequently. Yes, it happens frequently because Netflix is a big target with more than 74.3 million paid streaming subscribers across the United States and Canada as of the end of 2022, according to Netflix. The company has ranked in the top 20 of most spoofed brands since 2019. Phishing by email and by text are the most popular ways of gaining unauthorized access.
Security analyst Trend Micro reported on several popular scams they’ve seen so far this year. Clever emails designed to look like they came from Netflix have taken two approaches. The first is a fake suspended membership notice that says the company was unable to process your payment. Using a friendly tone — “we’d love to have you back” — the email asks you to click a link to restart your membership. Your guard may be down because the tone of the email mimics typical Netflix communications in its casual and folksy tone. But click the link, and you’ll be taken to a copycat Netflix page where any information you submit will go directly to the scammers, including credit card information.
A second scheme uses a survey and tempts email recipients with a cash prize for answering a series of questions. Again, clicking the link takes you to a fake Netflix survey page. At the end, you are asked for financial information to claim your prize. Of course, this information will fall right into the hands of the scammers who will try to use it to access your bank account.
Text scams are similar to the first email example. A message will say there’s a problem with your account and try to drive you to a malicious link. Text or email, the outcome is the same. These types of messages should always be deleted.
I can tell you that I received several of these types of texts and immediately deleted them. Could they have been a precursor to the unauthorized use of my account or was this just a coincidence? I will never know, but I will certainly check my Netflix account regularly to look for unknown devices and to make sure someone hasn’t upgraded my account from Standard to Premium, which is another common ploy once someone is freeloading off your account.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at email@example.com.