What to do if your email account is hacked

spammerHacked email accounts are not only painful to you, but can be a problem for your friends and clients who receive the spam emails. Often you won’t even realize your email account was hacked until you get a message from a friend who says, “did you send me this?”

If you discover your email account has been hacked, here are the top 5 things you must do immediately to prevent any further problems.

Change your password and make it stronger. According to the top Internet gurus, the top 5 passwords used in America are 123456, password, 12345678, qwerty, and abc123. Spammers create text files with millions of these common passwords (and the entire dictionary) which they can use to try to break into your account. It’s all automated, and they can test thousands of passwords a second. To combat this, you should use at least an 8 character password with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.

Take back control of your email account. If you cannot access your email or change your password, it means the spammer has taken control of your account. Follow the instructions from the help center on your email provider. In every case, they will have seen this before, and have step-by-step instructions to help you get control back of your account. Once you have control, change your password again to a stronger one. Also, remember to change your security questions in case your hacker has changed them so he can get back in.

Email your friends and tell them you’ve been hacked. People tend to trust emails from known friends. The computers of everyone that was emailed could be in danger of getting a virus or a Trojan (except people with Macs ;-) ). Tell them your email was hacked, and ask them to delete any other recent emails from you. Make sure you send out a text-only email so it doesn’t get caught in their spam filter.

Update your security. Have you ever ignored the little message on the lower right corner of your screen that says “Updates Available?” Start by making sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date, then make sure you update your operating system.

Check your other accounts. Your email address is usually tied to other online activities. If your account is compromised, you don’t want the spammer asking your bank to send a new user name and password to your old email account. Keep a list of every activity tied to your email account, and if the account is compromised, notify your bank, your credit card company and other online accounts.

Here are a couple of good resources you can use:

Microsoft Outlook

Gmail Account

Hotmail Account

AOL Account

Apple Safari Account