What Should I Do if My Email Address Has Been Hacked?

by James Wright
Malware can steal your password no matter how often you change it.

Malware can steal your password no matter how often you change it.

When your email account is hacked, your first priority is to reclaim your account and protect your data -- but making sure your account is secure doesn't stop at just changing your email password. Hackers can use your email account to access any of your other online accounts, or they can use malware to try to steal your personal information off your computer. If your email is hacked, regain access to your account, then focus on making sure your other accounts, and your computer, are safe.

Change Current Password

If you believe you have been hacked, or if you know you have but you still have access to your account, change your password immediately. If you don't have access, try to restore access to your account by using your secret questions, or by contacting your email provider immediately. The most important thing is to lock the hacker out and prevent him from doing any more damage than he already has. Choose a new password, one that you haven't used before and aren't using anywhere else. If possible, change your password from a computer you don't normally use in case your main computer is infected with malware.

Secure Other Accounts

Your email address is your gateway to every other online account; if someone can see your email, he can access your passwords for every account linked to that address. Check all your other online accounts to make sure you still have access to them, and change their passwords as well. Check your email's inbox and trash to see if any "Forgot Password" requests were sent from any of your other accounts. Don't forget to check any banking accounts tied to your email address, or even alternative email addresses that use yours as a backup.

Scan Your Computer

To make sure your accounts stay safe after you regain access to them, perform a full scan of your computer using anti-virus and anti-spyware scanners. Even if you think your computer is safe, it's best to be sure; malware like keyloggers can steal your passwords and other information, giving it right back to your hacker even after you've secured everything. This is why changing your passwords from a separate computer until you are sure your main computer is secure increases your chances of avoiding further problems.

Additional Security Options

Many email providers give you additional security options that can help prevent people from breaking into your accounts even if they have your password. For example, you may be able to enable two-step verification, a system that requires you to type in a verification code every time you try to log in; this code is sent to your phone, so only you can log in. Your phone number can also be used to help you retrieve your account if your account is hacked so you don't need to wait for your provider to assist you. You can also add a recovery email address that serves a similar function to adding your phone number. When you are hacked, you can access your secondary email address to regain access to your first.

About the Author

Based in California, James Wright has been writing since 1998. Wright's articles have been published on various websites with a focus on technical fields such as computers and the Internet, and were also featured in a now-retired publication for an online artistic community. Wright studied English, journalism, politics and psychology at Riverside Community College.

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