Everyone has seen it! You start receiving phony emails from a friend with a link to Viagra, some weight-loss program, or worse. What happens when it’s you though? Most likely one or more of your friends (or email contacts) will be kind enough to let you know they received some suspicious emails from your account.
E-mail hacks are typically accomplished in one of three ways: malware/viruses, website’s user data is hacked, or a phishing attack. If you have been a victim of one of these attacks essentially your email login credentials have been compromised and possibly other accounts as well. Follow these 7 simple steps in order to fix your hacked e-mail account:
The most common misconception about this process is that you should change your password first. Although that is the fundamental issue at hand, most e-mail hacks are done by malware and viruses installed on your computer which could just as easily capture your new password. Make sure all your devices are clean. Run a full-system scan with a reputable virus and malware removal program, or contact a local computer repair professional to ensure a thoroughly clean and secure computer system.
2.) Recover Locked E-Mail Account via Your Service Provider (if necessary).
Sometimes your email service provider will lock your account if too many spam emails have been sent out. If this is the case follow your email provider’s instructions on how to recover your account. You will most likely create a new password in this process. Depending on the quality of your provider they may back up your contacts and emails prior to your account be hacked. This is very convenient because occasionally email hijackers will delete your email or contacts.
Now that your computer is clean of any potential threats, change your password. Use a secure password: at least 8 characters long, include capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. The best method is to create a sentence that is easily remembered, and take the first letter from each word to create a unique password. Be sure to change your security question responses as well, and do not use real or publicly available information for your answers such as your mother’s actual maiden name.
4.) Reset Your E-Mail Settings.
Often times a hacker will change your email forwarding and signature block settings to continue compromising your e-mail beyond the initial recovery. Reset your setting to default, or check each setting individually to ensure you are clean.
5.) Change Accounts with Similar Credentials.
If you use the same login credentials for any other websites or online accounts (i.e. the exact username/email and password), change those passwords as well.
6.) Review Linked Accounts & Sensitive Information.
Many of our e-mail accounts are linked to other accounts or we have emails which contain sensitive information such as your social security number or other personal information. If your login credentials are explicitly listed in an email for any other account, change those passwords too. Start monitoring your credit report periodically to check for any fraudulent behavior as a result of your e-mail being hacked.
7.) Kindly Let Your Contacts Know Your E-Mail has been Hacked.
Let your contacts know you have taken the necessary steps to clean your computers and e-mail account. Consider offering a brief apology, but understand it happens quite frequently and could happened to anyone.
If you follow these 7 simple steps you will be back in business, and ready to take on another day in the technology age!