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Your Email has Been Hacked! Now What?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 by | Filed Under: E-Mail Help, Security Help

Robert writes:

I opened an e-mail from a “work from home” ad. Before I knew it, is has taken off and has sent it to all the contacts in my address book; not once but it continues to do so daily and I get repeated e-mails from them to stop sending, but I do not know how to put a stop to it. Any suggestions?

As you may have already guessed, your e-mail account has been hacked… Something that can definitely be quite upsetting. You’re probably wondering how it happened, how your data has been affected and, most important of all, how to stop the hacker. The first thing to keep in mind is that getting hacked can happen to anyone. While you can avoid the majority of hack attempts by deleting e-mails from unknown senders and not opening strange attachments, everyone is susceptible to hacking. Knowing what to do if it happens can make dealing with the situation much easier.

Change Your E-mail Password

As soon as you discover you’ve been hacked, log into your e-mail account and set a new password. The exact process of changing your password will depend on your e-mail service provider, but the option is usually in your e-mail settings. You’ll want to pick a password you can remember, but that others will not be able to guess easily.

Notify All Your Contacts

Send an e-mail to everyone in your contact list or address book and notify them that you’ve been hacked. Warn them not to click on any links within the e-mail you sent or open any attachments. Rather than sending out individual e-mails, which could take hours if you’ve got a lot of contacts, draft one generic e-mail, type your e-mail address in the To: field and enter all your contacts in the BCC field. BCC, which stands for ‘blind carbon copy,’ allows you to send an e-mail to multiple recipients without the recipients being able to see who else you sent it to.

Clear Your Cache & Cookies

Once you’ve taken care of damage control, you should clear out your Internet browser’s cache and delete any cookies on your computer. The cache is a folder where temporary Internet files are stored. If you are unsure where to find the cache on your browser, try typing cache in your browser’s help menu. Cookies are small text files that contain information about specific domains. These files are stored on your hard drive and called into play when you visit the cookie’s domain. You’ll typically find the button to clear your cookies in the same menu as your cache settings, but if you cannot locate it, search your browser’s help menu.

Scan Your Computer For Viruses

Activate your computer’s antivirus program and check for any problems. If you don’t update your software regularly, you should. Updating the software allows it to detect the latest viruses and malware before running the program. Running an out-of-date antivirus program might yield faulty results, so take the time to update before you run it. If your computer does not have antivirus software, get it immediately. You could face data loss, e-mail hacking or identity theft if you do not have an antivirus program running on your computer.

Test Your E-mail

If you want to make sure you’ve solved the problem, create a new contact with an e-mail address at the top of the alphabet, such as If your computer is still infected with a virus, you’ll get a notification when an e-mail sent to the above address does not go through. Should you receive a failure notification for this e-mail address, repeat the above steps. Make sure you’ve got the latest antivirus definitions installed or consider trying a different antivirus program if the problem persists.

Hope that helps!

~ Chad Stetson

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4 Responses to “Your Email has Been Hacked! Now What?”

  1. B Galambos says:

    According to the above article the problem stated above is a virus which is
    in the computer but the experience I have had suggests something more than that. A friend’s computer was hacked in the same way and was sending out messages to her contacts including me. Since her computer was rather old she
    bought a new one. Nothing was transferred from the old computer but I still
    get those same messages every once in a while and there are times when dialogue is added to the email. This suggests to me that someone has her contacts and can send email to them making it look like it came from her
    although how is beyond me. Do you have a comment on this?

  2. Kevin K. says:

    This very same thing has happened to me and a few of my friends too. Unfortunately AOL just told us to change our passwords! Can you imagine that? Just change your password? I knew there was more to it and I thank you guys very much for sharing the “whole solution”. By the way, I’m also very ticked off at AT&T & AOL for not giving me any info on why I can “now” not play youtube videos without them continually stopping and starting! It’s like they just want more money for me to “upgrade” my DSL account to a faster one! When I first got on AT&T’d DSL it was fast enough back then to play a whole 7 min. video without it stopping once, now it takes over 26 min. to watch the same video! Any Ideas, (besides upgrading)???

  3. K.Vee.Shanker. says:

    Hi Chad,

    Thanks for your detailed article. But,your last step of introducing a junk Mail ID may not work. I’d my mail account hacked too, and I tried creating a junk ID as suggested by my friend. First, the mail account resisted creation of junk ids. Secondly, when I did create a junk id by trial and error, my contacts and I continued to recive junk mails. The funny part is that the junk mail id has also been included in ‘To’addresses!

    And, the most important issue in changing the password is that one should not change password from the same infected computer. One must do that only from a computer that is not infected. I changed the password from my office computer.

  4. ellie says:

    The left hand column (legend) when opening email that has “inbox, sent mail, junk mail, etc listed has disappeared….how can I get it back?

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