Almost all internet users have email addresses—they’re among the most versatile and important assets of anyone on the internet. However, this versatility can come at a cost.
If a cybercriminal has accessed your email, it can lead to severe damage to many aspects of your life. This includes your finances, work data, personal information, and even your reputation.
You may have suspicions that a hacker may have gotten into your account. Contacts may be asking you about strange emails you’ve sent, or maybe you can’t login despite knowing your password by heart.
You wouldn’t want to miss out on the signs of a compromised email address and fall victim to hacking.
So, what can hackers actually do with your email address?
We looked into how to protect yourself from hackers and learned about the most severe damage that a compromised email can lead to by reading this article.
Hackers now have more complicated tools than ever, so we’ve sought expert tips too. Read on to learn more, and don’t miss out on those expert insights!
What happens if hackers get your email address?
Your email address is one of the most crucial aspects of your online identity—it’s your address and ID card on the Internet, so you’ll typically use it for everything.
Your email inbox is rich in personal information that hackers can use for wicked reasons. So, how much info can someone get from your email address? Here’s what they may access:
- Your personal information (your name and possibly your address and mobile number)
- Sites you have accounts on (including financial platforms)
- Your contacts
With that in mind, cybercriminals can do what they want with hacked email addresses, which can include the following:
1. Search for personal information
One of the things that a hacker can do when they steal email addresses is to look for identifiable personal information. They may look through online databases and public platforms, and if you’re not careful, they might learn a lot about you.
For instance, if you haven’t changed your privacy settings on Facebook, the cybercriminal can search your email address on the platform. There, they might get your name, pictures, and friends list. They may even learn about where you work and where you’ve studied.
If you’re not careful, a cybercriminal may even know where you live. This is why it’s best to keep your social media settings as private as possible—you wouldn’t want hackers to have your personal information right at their fingertips.
2. Commit identity theft
Once a scammer has learned enough about you, they might steal your identity and use it to commit several other crimes. Many people underestimate the damage that this can cause—but it’s a real problem you need to take seriously.
Identity theft can have severe consequences, so it might be best to invest in identity theft protection services to arm yourself against this issue.
A hacker can create a fake account using the personal information they’ve gathered about you—they can use your name and picture to convince others that it’s you. Then, they may message your contacts and ask for money or more information.
This can harm your reputation and victimize your friends and family. Moreover, if hackers manage to access or guess your passwords, you may be in more significant trouble.
Hackers can sift through your inbox and gain sensitive data like your social security number, passwords to other websites, financial account details, employment records, credit card info, and many other details they need to commit identity theft.
It’s always best to keep your details private and keep your passwords strong to protect cybercriminals from easily hacking your email accounts.
3. Send phishing attempts
Phishing is a cybercrime that involves scammers sending emails, texts, or calls and pretending to be legitimate websites. It’s a serious threat that keeps becoming more widespread.
A 2021 research revealed a 7.3 percent uptick in email attacks between May and August of the said year—most of which were phishing attempts.
Phishing attacks are proof that someone can hack your email even without a password. All they need is your email address to send malicious emails your way.
Phishing emails will typically convince you to pay money, click a link, download an attachment, or send your login credentials for fake verification purposes. However, doing what the email asks for can open you up to a whole world of trouble.
The links or emails may contain malware or trackers that hackers can use to get your sensitive information or lock you out of your accounts for ransom. They may even redirect you to a fake but convincing website where you’ll have to log in—only for the hackers to get your password.
Some scammers may even use phishing campaigns for identity theft, so it’s best to be wary of these email attacks.
4. Attempt to steal financial details
One of the most obvious things that hackers will attempt when hacking your email is to steal financial information. More often than not, they’re out for profit.
Your inbox likely contains numerous emails that contain your bank details, credit and debit card information and other aspects of your financial accounts.
If hackers somehow get your password, they’ll likely access these financial details—and when they do, you’ll be in big trouble. This is among the most devastating things that could happen to you.
With your financial information, hackers can open new accounts in your name, make monetary transactions, and take out loans. As a result, they’ll jeopardize your credit score and reputation.
5. Use it for blackmail or extortion
In rare instances, if hackers get into your emails, they may find information that you wouldn’t want to be out in public. These cybercriminals can use this data to contact you directly and extort or blackmail you for money.
Hacked email addresses: Signs to look out for
If cybercriminals hack your email accounts, you’ll sometimes find indications that they’ve breached your data. Knowing what to look for is crucial because you’d want to act fast in these situations.
Here are some common signs you must look out for:
Your password has changed unexpectedly
Many of us tend to forget our passwords, but if you use password managers or keep a secure log of your sign-in credentials and still can’t log onto your email, the cybercriminal may have locked you out and changed your password to prevent you from logging in.
The “Sent” folder contains emails you don’t recall sending
Some hackers are more secretive than others—they won’t lock you out of your account so that you won’t suspect anything. However, they may still leave traces that they’ve hacked your email account.
It’s best to check your email regularly, especially the “Sent” folder. Sometimes, hackers send emails using your account to trick your contacts or use it as a form of identity theft.
If the “Sent” folder contains emails you don’t recall sending, it may be a sign that a hacker has gotten into your email account.
Also, if your contacts complain of receiving strange emails from you, this might mean that a criminal is posing as you and sending emails to them. Criminals may want to steal more information, ask for money, or get them to click phishing links.
You’re receiving unexpected emails
Your inbox can also contain signs of hackers trying to control your account. For instance, if you’ve received a password reset email from another website without prompting the reset yourself, a criminal may be trying to lock you out.
You may also receive emails from your credit provider or financial institution. If you receive receipts of transactions you don’t know, call the bank immediately. A criminal may have infiltrated your account.
What to do if your email is hacked
You might be wondering, “Should I delete my email if it was hacked?” It may be your instinct to start anew, but it’s not advisable to do so. This way, cybercriminals can recycle your deleted email address and impersonate you.
So, what should you do instead? Here are some tips:
1. Modify your login credentials
Changing your email password is a crucial first step if you suspect that a hacker has gotten into your account. Ensure that it’s a strong password that’s different from your old one.
If you have other accounts that share the same password as your email account (which is highly risky), it’s also best to change them.
You may have to contact your email provider and provide a lot of information if a hacker has locked you out of your account.
2. Examine your other accounts
Hackers may not stop after taking control of one account—they may access others, especially ones that have similar passwords. Because of this, it’s best to check your other accounts for any signs of attacks.
Check your messages, posts, and transactions for anything unusual. Then, change and strengthen your passwords.
3. Check for malware and viruses
Because some hackers send phishing emails to your email address, it’s best to check your device for malware and viruses. Run a scan with antivirus software to detect these harmful programs and stop them from tracking you or locking you out of your device.
It may also be wise to set up automatic malware scans so the software can periodically check that your device is safe.
4. Let your contacts know about the hack
Alerting your contacts of potential email hacking is one of the best things you can do to protect others from falling victim to these crimes. Ask your contacts to ignore and delete any suspicious emails from you.
Although many of us find it embarrassing to let others know that criminals may have hacked our accounts, warning people can protect them from being victims themselves. It’s a good thing to do, and you’d also want others to look out for you in the same manner.
How you can stay safe from hackers
How can you prevent hackers from exploiting your email address?
Thomas Niemczewski, CEO and founder of SEO company Dream Chasers, advises that, “The first thing you should do is change your password regularly. You should also make sure that the email account you use isn’t connected to any other accounts that have been hacked in the past. Finally, you should make sure that your email account is protected by two-factor authentication and that all passwords are unique.”
Nimczewski also adds, “If you’re using a password manager like LastPass or 1Password, make sure that your password is unique for each account and don’t store them in the same place.”
Here are other tips to protect your email account:
- Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments in emails, especially from those you don’t know.
- Set up multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your accounts to prevent hackers from logging in even when they have your password.
- Invest in security software and identity theft protection services.
It’s also best to keep your personal details private to avoid hackers from knowing too much about you.
Hackers can do a lot with just your email address. They can steal your personal data, commit identity theft, harvest your financial details, and even blackmail you.
With that said, it’s always best to know what to do if you suspect that criminals may have compromised your email and how to protect yourself from these instances.
Strengthen your passwords, conduct malware scans, and set up multi-factor authentication to protect your accounts.