Email accounts are some of the most valuable accounts nowadays. They are the key to other platforms and a plethora of sensitive information. Because of that, hackers usually target email accounts first. Thus, it’s crucial to secure your email account with all means possible.
But what if someone has already compromised your email account? You should take action immediately if you believe that your email was hacked. Here are a few tips on how to spot suspicious activity that gives the hackers away.
1. Your Password Was Changed
If you cannot log into the email with your password, it is a sign that someone else had accessed the account. The hacker has most likely changed the credentials to lock you out and take over the account.
In this situation, you can initiate the email recovery and verification process. But if that doesn’t work either, the hacker might have had the access long enough to change the security questions and reroute the process.
2. Suspicious Emails in the Sent Folder
Hackers don’t always lock you out of the account or change the password. Sometimes, their only goal is to stay hidden and track your activity. Other times, they use the address to send suspicious mail.
Thus, if you suspect that someone has access to your account, it’s a good idea to check the “sent” folder. If you find any suspicious emails that you don’t remember sending, chances are someone has used your account. They could have used your account to spread spam messages or impersonate you.
Impersonation and identity theft can go unnoticed for days because users have no idea that someone is using their email.
3. You Receive Password Reset Emails
Email providers usually inform users of login attempts from new devices. If you receive a message that leads to a password reset, it’s a clear sign that someone tried to recover and reset the password. So, your account may not be hacked yet, but someone indeed wants to take over your email.
In this situation, it is best to change your original password right away and inform the email provider of the failed hack attempt. Think of it as a warning that you should step up your email security. Someone could be targeting your account.
4. Getting Login Activity Notifications
Another obvious sign is receiving login activity notifications. If the provider reports new devices logged into the account, someone has already gained unauthorized access. It calls for immediate action to prevent further consequences, such as data and identity theft.
What to Do If Your Email Was Hacked
Realizing that someone hacked your email account can lead to panic and stress. After all, hackers can get your personal and financial data, including access to bank accounts and credit card details.
Instead of panicking on the spot, try to remain calm and start preventing further damage:
Step 1. The first thing you should do is run an antivirus program to scan the device for potential malware and keyloggers. If there is a keylogger on your device, hackers can get a new password as soon as you create one. So don’t skip this step.
Step 2. If you still have access to the email address, change the password. Choose the option that automatically logs everyone out of the account after the change is complete.
Step 3. Make sure to also change the security questions for password recovery. In case the hacker locked you out, report the attack to the email provider and request that they shut the email down.
Step 4. If you have used the same password on any other account, change it there too. Get a password manager to create new unique passwords for all your accounts. You would only need to remember the master password to access them all.
Step 5. The next step is to inform your contacts of the recent breach and check whether they received any suspicious emails from you lately.
Step 6. If you use the address in question on PayPal or other financial sites, make sure to check all your payment cards for suspicious transfers and purchases. If there has been any activity that you didn’t initiate, contact the bank and seek their help.
Increase Email Security
While there are things you can do to fix the damage after an email hack, in some cases, it is best to start over and create a new account. Once you gain access to the old account, delete it and create a new one.
This time, make sure to secure your account with a strong password and two-factor authentication. Also, read about phishing attacks and never access your accounts from unprotected networks and devices.