How to prevent hijacked email addresses

Written by amanda c. kooser
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How to prevent hijacked email addresses
Protect your e-mail account from hijackers. (e-mail button image by Richard Kane from

E-mail hijacking is when a hacker breaks into an e-mail account and uses it to send spam or access private data. E-mail security goes beyond just having a strong password. There are many ways to protect your e-mail account from hijackers and hackers. Some of these methods are just commonsense approaches that get overlooked. Because e-mail is an important method of both business and personal communication, it pays to be proactive in protecting your account.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    Choose a strong password. A strong password uses letters, numbers and special characters and is longer than eight characters. Don't use a birth date, generic word or a set of characters such as "password" or "12345678." Use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters if your e-mail program allows it.

  2. 2

    Use a unique password for your e-mail account. If you use the same password for all of your online accounts and one account is compromised, then the hacker will have access to everything--including your e-mail account. Use different passwords for different purposes.

  3. 3

    Avoid sharing your e-mail address on the Internet. Placing your address in public forum messages or otherwise spreading it around in full view online is an invitation for spammers to spoof your e-mail. Essentially, spammers collect e-mail addresses and send out spams that appear to come from those addresses. Don't make it easy for spammers to find and use your address.

  4. 4

    Use antivirus software and keep it up to date. Anti-virus software is one of your most important lines of protection for general computer security. Anti-virus can alert you if you click on an infected attachment in your e-mail and can prevent your computer and accounts from becoming compromised. Separate spyware scanning programs are also available. Scan your computer periodically to check for potentially dangerous programs that might have slipped by.

  5. 5

    Use an e-mail program with a spam filter. Most e-mail applications have spam filters built in that will filter out potentially dangerous e-mails that could give hackers an inroad into your e-mail account or computer. Flag spam e-mails that aren't caught automatically and don't open e-mails from unknown senders.

  6. 6

    Don't give out your e-mail address or password. Any person or web site that asks for your e-mail password is most likely not legitimate. Your e-mail provider will never ask you to give out your password or type it into an online form on another web site. The same goes for phone calls from people who may be pretending to be from technical support. If you have any doubt, contact the company directly to verify the request or determine if a web page is legitimate.

Tips and warnings

  • Consider maintaining more than one e-mail account. You can have a private, personal account as well as a different one that you use when signing up for online services or filling in online forms.

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