You might not be aware that your email has been hacked until a friend informs you that you are sending out mass scam emails or you realize you can no longer log in to your email on your smartphone. No matter what way you figure it out, it can be terrifying and unsettling to realize that your online and mobile security has been compromised. Don’t fret. Instead work fast. Here are some tips on how to protect your identity if your email has been hacked.
Immediately Change Your Password
If you can still log in to your email after it has been hacked, the first thing you should do is change your password. This simple step can lock the hackers out for good. Since you likely store personal information in your email, this means you will need to change your password for all your online accounts — especially accounts that have confidential personal and financial information.
If you don’t want the hackers coming back, pick a new stronger password that is harder to hack. Ideally, your password will be a random string of numbers, letters and symbols rather than a real word or any sort of personal information, like birthdays or relatives’ names, that could easily be found on your social networking sites. The password might be hard to memorize, but that also means it’s harder to hack.
Let People Know You’ve Been Hacked
It’s important to tell your email contacts that you’ve been hacked. Once they know, they can avoid opening suspicious emails and making themselves susceptible to malware and scams. They can also serve as your eyes and ears by letting you know if the hacker still has access to your account and is sending out scam emails.
Also make sure you report the hack to your email provider. Your provider has dealt with this before and can give you steps to protect your information and retrieve control of your email. They may also refer you to identity protection services.
Review Your Email Settings
Check to make sure your settings have not been changed. A savvy hacker may have added a forwarding address or a malicious link in your signature. So, carefully review all your settings to ensure your email is not being further comprised.
Your email probably contains a lot of personal information. If you think key confidential information like your Social Security Number has been compromised after an attack, you should start monitoring your credit and financial accounts. You should retrieve a copy of your credit statement online and also contact a fraud department and ask them to put a fraud alert on your file. To be safe, you may need to freeze your credit entirely.