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Hijack Hijinks

Friday, February 15, 2013  
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Orlando REALTOR® | January/February 2013

It's no fun when a hacker takes control of your e-mail account

What on earth is going on here? People listed in your e-mail contacts report being flooded with spam messages sent from your account. You aren’t able to log into your account or change its settings, or you’ve discovered the settings have been altered. You attempt to use e-mail, and find it has been blocked by your provider.

Guess what, your e-mail account has been hijacked. Here’s what to do.

If you CAN’T log in to your e-mail account

You’re likely going to have to go through some frustrating hoop-jumping. Conveniently, a Twitter "help” page has a handy list of links for all the major e-mail services’ own support pages. Each service has its own method for determining that you are who you say you are.

If you CAN log in to your e-mail account

Make sure your PC is current with OS updates and anti-virus/malware software. (If you aren’t completely sure your PC is clean, then don’t do any of the following suggestions.) Any changes you attempt to make could be forwarded on by malware, too.

Set up at least two new e-mail addresses. Use your original e-mail address for personal or business communication as you’d normally do. The secondary e-mail address is insurance against future hacks; use it to communicate with your service provider, since many now ask for an alternative address as added protection. Then, use a third e-mail address only for registering for sites, newsletters, online shopping, and other services. Use a different and strong password for each account — one that is at least six characters long, and is a combination of letters, numbers and capitals/lowercase.

On a secure PC, log into your e-mail, and then check whether or not any of the settings have been changed by a hacker. If any of those settings have been altered, delete the new settings.

Once you have changed the settings, create a new password, and add your secondary e-mail account as your alternative address.

Going forward, never list your main e-mail address publicly anywhere online — in forums, in online ads, on blogs or any place where they can be harvested by spammers. Use only your "registration” address, and keep it separate from your main address book.

Don’t use public computers to check e-mail!

Jon Chase is a writer for the technology website and can be reached at Content © 2013 AOL Inc. Used with permission.


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