Consider this: Your email account is the digital counterpart of your physical home address. You provide your email address to businesses in order to receive products, services, and information. It also provides a way to communicate with family and friends.
In fact, email accounts are much more than just an inbox. They are also used as proof of your identity. When an email address is used to sign up for something, it’s being used as a digital identity marker. Therefore, your email address becomes a valuable target for cybercriminals who are looking to steal your personal information for financial gain.
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Here are some signs your email account has been hijacked:
1. A new password
Perhaps the most obvious sign that your email account may be hijacked is that you cannot log in with the same password you’ve been using. First, be certain you’re using the correct password. If login problems persist, initiate the password recovery process. If the recovery methods don’t work, possibly because the hackers have changed the recovery information or you don’t have access to your secondary recovery email or device, then your only option is to get in touch with your email administrator or customer support.
2. Strange emails in your sent folder
Instead of completely taking over your email account and locking you out, some cybercriminals just want to commandeer your account to send spam or to learn more information about you while trying to hide their activity.
Check your sent folder to see if there are any emails you don’t remember sending, especially mass emails to the contacts in your address book. It’s important to note, sophisticated attackers will delete any sent emails to cover their tracks. Therefore, it isn’t always possible to tell if something was sent without your knowledge.
3. Unexpected password reset emails
Keep an eye out for password reset emails that you didn’t request. Cybercriminals may be trying to find out which banks, shopping sites, and other services you use. Be on the lookout for suspicious emails or calls claiming to be from your bank asking for more information, like PIN codes, passwords, or social security numbers.
4. Complaints from contacts
If business contacts or friends and family in your address book start emailing or messaging you saying they’re receiving strange content from you, this could be a sign cybercriminals are using your email account to send spam and phishing emails. It’s possible that someone is just spoofing your account, but if you’re receiving multiple reports from people in your address book, it’s much more likely that your email account has been hijacked.
5. Unusual IP addresses, devices, and/or browsers
Many email services offer the ability to check your login activity and list IP addresses or locations where your email account has been accessed from. It may also show the browsers and/or devices used. If you see locations or devices you don’t recognize, it’s possible someone is tampering with your email account.