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How can I tell if someone has hacked into my email account?

The warning signs of an email hack all indicate that something is happening to your email without your control. If you’re locked out of your Gmail inbox, for example, that’s a strong sign that your Google account is hacked.

Here’s a detailed look at the most common indicators that your email may be compromised.

  • You’re locked out. After obtaining control, email hackers may change your email password to prevent you from getting back in. Make sure that you’re entering your password correctly — but if your email password doesn’t work anymore, you may have a compromised email account.
  • Your account settings have been changed. Critical account settings, such as your recovery email and phone number or 2FA options, shouldn’t be changed by anyone but you. If you notice these are different, you could have a hacked email account.
  • There are emails in your Sent folder that you didn’t send. If you didn’t send emails in your Sent folder, someone else may have. Emails that you didn’t send yourself are a strong indication of an email breach. But since some email hackers know to delete emails after they’ve sent them, you may not always notice this red flag.
  • You’ve received password change requests or confirmations. Hackers can go around to popular banks, social media platforms, eshops, and other sites and test your email address there. Unrequested password change emails can indicate that someone is trying to figure out which sites you use, then get control of your accounts.
  • Your contacts tell you. If someone’s hacked your email account and started sending strange emails to your contacts, you may start hearing about it. If people report receiving odd emails from you, your email account may be compromised.
  • You notice logins from unfamiliar IP addresses and locations. Your email provider should let you view the login history for your account. You’ll see the IP addresses used to access your account along with the location, and in some cases, the browser and device type. Unrecognized IP addresses may belong to an email hacker.

If everything’s normal on your email, but you’re noticing strange behavior on your other apps, it may be that your phone was hacked rather than your email.

How do I know if my Gmail account has been hacked?

You can see if your Gmail is hacked by viewing the login history for your Gmail account. This will show you the IP addresses, locations, and device types of all recent logins.

Here’s how to check for a Gmail account breach:

  1. Open your Gmail inbox and click Details in the lower-right corner.The account activity details link in Gmail
  2. You’ll see a list of recent logins along with relevant information. Find your IP address and check it against the IP addresses used to access your email account.Viewing Gmail account login history

If IP addresses other than yours have accessed your account, it’s probably been hacked. Look for the other common warning signs of email hacks to be sure about your Gmail account.

How did my email get hacked?

The most common reasons why your email got hacked include phishing scams, not logging out on shared computers, and poor password habits. Here’s a detailed look at how someone likely compromised your email account.

  1. You fell for a phishing scam that asked you to “confirm” your password. Though these phishing emails can be convincing, never respond to any unexpected message that asks you to verify your password, account numbers, addresses, or any other information of this kind.These emails use social engineering techniques to fool you into handing over your email password. They’re very effective, which is why phishing is a favorite tool of the world’s best hackers.
  2. You didn’t log out of your account after using a public PC or device. If you use a public PC to check your email, always log out when you’re done. But it’s better to avoid logging into any accounts at all while using a shared PC.There’s no way to know whether these machines are infected with malware or have spyware such as keyloggers installed on them, making them a big risk.
  3. You used a weak, easy-to-guess password or have been using the same password across multiple sites. Make sure your passwords are both long and unique for all the various sites and services that you use, then keep track of all your new and complex passwords with a good password manager.
  4. Hackers obtained your email credentials in a data breach. If you recycle passwords between accounts, it just takes one compromised account for a hacker to access all of them. Hackers can buy passwords off the dark web, where other people sell them after successful data breaches.
  5. You used an unsecured Wi-Fi network where hackers were able to eavesdrop on your data and intercept your passwords. Free public Wi-Fi networks, like the ones in cafes and airports, often have zero security. This means anyone can sit on the network and intercept all the traffic flowing through it — including your email details.Avoid this by connecting only to reputable networks that you trust and that are password-protected.
  6. You didn’t have updated security software on your PC. Without adequate protection, your PC can become infected with malware designed to steal your passwords – which can sneak through in the form of dodgy downloads and suspicious email attachments. 

What to do if your email has been hacked

After an email breach, act quickly to get the hacker out of your account. The following email security tips will help you reclaim control over your email and prevent future email hacks.

  1. Change your password. Begin the password recovery process for your email provider and set a new password that is both long and unique. If you’ve used your old email password for other accounts, change those passwords too — and make sure they’re all different.Optional: create a new email account. Having multiple email accounts at once is a good way to avoid spam emails. Using a “burner” email address for free trials, newsletters, and so on can prevent spam from reaching your other, actual email address.
  2. Change your security questions. If your email provider uses security questions — such as your first school, or your mother’s maiden name — change these ASAP. Hackers can find the answers to questions like these from your social media accounts, especially if you tend to overshare online.
  3. Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA). If your email provider offers two-factor authentication, set it up now. Though 2FA isn’t 100% bulletproof, it’s much more secure than a few easy-to-guess security questions. Make 2FA a core component of your email security practices.
  1. Tell your contacts. Alert your contacts that your email has been compromised, and that they should look out for suspicious emails that appear to have been sent by you. Tell them that you didn’t send these messages yourself, and they should delete them immediately.
  2. Update your security software. Make sure any security software on your devices is updated to the most current version available.
  3. Recover your accounts. Protect yourself against future hacks by recovering your accounts and kicking the email hackers out for good. Keep reading to find out how to recover hacked Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft email accounts.
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