Heres What to Do (Immediately) If Your Email Gets Hacked

Your friend just texted you: Did you mean to send me a link to buy Viagra? If the answer is a definite no, follow these four important steps.

1. Change your password and password hints. Since the hacker now knows your login is a combo of your birthday and dog’s name, you need to switch it up…and fast. But instead of swapping a digit, come up with an entirely new password--for example, an easy-to-remember phrase--that’s actually tough to crack. Same deal with your password hints and recovery email address. (Better safe than sorry.)

2. Set up two-step verification. If you use Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail or Yahoo, this option can be found in your privacy settings. Basically, this requires you to go through a two-step process to verify your identity whenever you log into email from a new device. (It's super simple. Go into privacy settings and look for "two-step verification".) Sure, it’s an extra step, but it takes a second and will protect you from future hacks. (Note: It’s smart to do this whether you’ve been hacked or not.)

3. Check your email settings. After they gain access, a lot of hackers set up mail forwarding so they get a copy of every single email that gets sent to your account. Scary? Absolutely. A reason to double-check your settings and turn off forwarding if it’s enabled? Hell, yes.

4. Send your friends a quick alert. Select all the names in your contact list and ping them with an urgent note in the subject line telling them not to open any weird links they may have gotten from you. It may seem strange to send to everyone you’ve ever contacted, but it’s better to warn your 2004 boss than expose her to a similar email hack.

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