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By Allie Johnson for NortonLifeLock
June 10, 2022
Scammers hack email accounts so they can send phony messages from a trusted email address in hopes of getting the recipients to act. The goal could be to get these email contacts to send money, turn over personal information, or click a link that installs malware, spyware, or a virus on a device.
An email hack could also put your colleagues, friends, and family members in your email contacts list at risk for getting scammed too. Learn how email accounts can get compromised and what to do if your email is hacked.
A data breach is a common way to compromise an email account. If you believe you’re safe, just check out recent headlines about breaches that involve hacked email accounts.
For example, car manufacturer General Motors was hit by a data breach in April 2022. According to Security Magazine, hackers got ahold of GM customer names, email addresses, physical addresses, GM account information, and more.
So, what happens if a hacker gets your email address? If a cybercriminal were to gain access to your email address without also getting a hold of your email account password, it’s unlikely they could do much damage. But if they also get your password, they can cause you plenty of pain.
They could send scam emails to everyone on your contact list. And it’s no fun telling your boss that you didn’t really send the message urging him to try the latest diet drug, or explaining to your aunt that, no, you’re not stranded in Aruba in need of $1,000 wired immediately.
Hackers could also use your email and password to reset other passwords and gain control of your social media accounts. In a worst-case scenario, they could lock you out of your accounts and post anything they want as “you.” These posts could be scam posts containing malicious links or even posts that are embarrassing or personally damaging to you.
It’s also possible hackers could use your email account to gain access to your bank account or credit card information, draining funds from an account, or racking up charges. They might even use your email and password to sign up for online sites and services, sticking you with monthly fees in the process.
As you can see, it’s especially important to keep hackers from accessing your Gmail or other email accounts.
You never know when a hacker might go after your email account, but you can take steps to help protect yourself from a cybercriminal compromising your email.
First, never use the same password for your email account and the other important sites you visit. If someone gains access to your email password, you don’t want that person to use this information to get into your bank, credit card, or health care accounts. Make sure to use unique passwords for each of these key sites.
And make your passwords difficult to crack. Include letters, capitalized letters, numbers, and symbols in your passwords. Never use your birthday, address, Social Security number, or anything that someone may be able to guess about you in your password.
Don’t click on links in emails unless you absolutely know who sent the message to you and you’re expecting this person to send you a link. If you aren’t expecting a link from someone you know, avoid clicking links even if you know the sender. These fraudulent links can often lead to spoofed websites that look like they’re run by a bank or credit card provider, but they’re created by fraudsters to scam you out of your personal information.
Turn on two-factor authentication. With this security measure, you must first log into a site with your username and password — such as your bank, mortgage lender or credit card provider — and then wait for a code, usually sent to your smartphone. You then enter that code to gain access to the site. This does add an extra step to logging into an account, but it also provides an extra layer of protection.
You may get an urgent message from a friend or family member who received a suspicious email from you. They may ask if you sent the email. Or they may simply send these panic-inducing words: “You’ve been hacked.”
But you may be able to spot signs of a hacked email account before you get tipped off by a friend. Here are three indicators that your email account has likely been hacked.
Some email service providers have tools that you can use to check your IP address. If you use Gmail, for instance, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and look for the word “details” in the right corner. Click on this and you will see a log of IP addresses from which your account has been accessed.
A hacked email can put you and your email contacts at risk for identity theft and bank account or credit card fraud. If you think your email has been hacked, take quick action to minimize the damage.
Here are four tips for what to do if you email is hacked to banish the hacker and help protect yourself in the future.
The first step: Take back control of your hacked email account. If the hacker has locked you out, you may have to contact your email service provider for help. You will probably have to provide an array of information to prove your identity and regain control of your email.
If you do still have access to your account, make these changes right away:
Tell the colleagues, friends, and family in your email contact list that your email has been hacked. Warn them to delete any suspicious messages that come from your account. Also tell them not to open applications, click on links, share credit card information, or send money. It can be embarrassing to let your contacts know you’ve been hacked, but the warning may save them from falling for a scam.
Hackers may make changes to allow them to get into your account again or to continue to scam people after you’ve taken back control of the account. To prevent his, you should take these steps:
Finally, you can put a few simple measures in place to make another email hack less likely to happen in the future. Here’s what to do:
Now that you know what to do if your email is hacked, you can put a plan of action in place in case you ever do get the dreaded “you’ve been hacked” message from a friend. That will allow you to regain your account and your peace of mind more quickly.
Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.