What to do if a scammer has your email address

Maciej Bartłomiej Sikora
Content Writer
What to do if a scammer has your email address

Can you tell who has your email address?

Initially just a method for sending letter-like messages across the internet, email has now become an integral part of everyone’s digital lives. We use it when signing up for services, creating app accounts, sharing files with our friends and colleagues, shopping online, and more – essentially making email a virtual equivalent of an ID card.

Given its various applications, it's easy to lose track of who has our email address. Most users wouldn’t be able to name everyone who knows their email if asked. Consequently, many people may not realize that their email address has fallen into the hands of someone who might exploit it for personal gain.

If you’re concerned, let us help you find out if your email address has been compromised and understand why it might have been.

How to tell if a scammer has your email

If you trust your observational skills, there are key signs you should watch for that could indicate a scammer has gained access to your email address. These signs often include:

  1. You get many scam emails

    Have you noticed an increase in emails asking for your personal information or claiming urgent action is needed? This could indicate that a scammer has your email address and is using phishing tactics to coerce you into exposing sensitive data.

  2. You receive unexpected 2FA requests

    If you get unexpected two-factor authentication requests for services you haven't accessed, it could mean someone is trying to gain unauthorized access to your account using your email.

  3. You have problems logging into your online accounts

    Are you experiencing difficulties accessing your online accounts, even with the correct credentials? If so, then it is very likely that someone has used your email to gain access and changed your login information, effectively locking you out of your accounts.

  4. Your contacts received messages from your email address that you haven’t sent

    If your friends or colleagues mention receiving suspicious emails that appear to be from you, it could be that your email account has been compromised. The attacker might be using your account to deceive your contacts into sharing sensitive information that could be used against them.

Bear in mind, however, that today’s hackers know how to cover their tracks and operate discreetly to minimize any signs of wrongdoing. This is to say that finding out whether a scammer has exploited your email address can often be ambiguous and may require more than just keeping your eyes peeled.

Fortunately, there are digital tools available today that can help you find out if a breach has occurred. Take NordPass’ Data Breach Scanner, for example – a tool that scans the dark web for any mentions of your email address. With this solution, you can quickly check if your email address has been compromised and take the necessary action without having to monitor for signs of unusual behavior on your device.

What scammers can do with your email address

Although we've touched on this topic in the previous section, it's crucial to take a closer look at the potential dangers posed by scammers who want to exploit your email address. First of all, malicious actors may use phishing tactics to trick you into revealing sensitive personal information, or they might distribute malware via deceptive emails in an attempt to compromise your device's security.

Moreover, if hackers gain unauthorized access to your email account, they can commit identity theft and financial fraud, as well as take over your online accounts, and access other linked services and sensitive information stored in your email. All these risks highlight the urgent need for you to protect your email address and respond immediately to any signs of data compromise.

What you can do if a scammer has your email

Depending on the timing in the "a scammer got my email" scenario—whether it’s before or after they’ve used the email address for nefarious purposes—there are different actions you can (and should) take. Let's explore both scenarios and discuss steps to protect your data.

If a scammer only has your email address

At this point, nothing critical has happened yet, but you should stay vigilant, as phishing attempts could arrive at any moment. This means you need to be extra aware that someone might try to use your email to gain access to your digital belongings.

To secure your account, first ensure your email password is complex (consisting of letters, numbers, and symbols arranged randomly) and at least 12 characters long to resist brute-force attacks. Consider using a robust password manager like NordPass to generate and store strong passwords for all your accounts—including email—so you can avoid creating weak passwords and stop relying on your memory for storage.

Second, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your email account to make it extra difficult for cybercriminals to gain access. Additionally, regularly review your email account activity and set up alerts for unusual login behavior to catch any unauthorized access attempts early.

If a scammer has already gained access to your email account

Things get really serious when someone gains access to your email account and starts using it to wreak havoc. However, this doesn’t mean you have to stand by and watch a cyberattacker carry out their malicious activities. If your email account has been compromised, you can and should act quickly.

Firstly, if you still have access to your account, go to your email settings and change your password immediately. Then, request the platform to log you out of all sessions after the password change to block the hacker's access and regain control. Also, if you haven’t already, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to prevent similar security incidents in the future.

If you cannot access your account because the hacker has changed your login credentials, contact your email provider as soon as possible to report the security breach. Inform them about your situation so that their customer support team can help you restore access, reset your password, and lock out any unauthorized parties.

Once you're certain that access to your email account is secure again, run antivirus or antimalware tools to thoroughly scan your device for any lingering malicious software that may still pose a threat. Additionally, review your account activity to identify any unauthorized changes made by the attacker while they had access.

How to protect your email account

Whether you must react to an unauthorized account takeover or aim to prevent such incidents altogether, you have several options to safeguard your email account. We've already discussed some: using a data breach scanner to monitor if your email address has been compromised, strengthening passwords against brute force attacks, and enabling multi-factor authentication so that a password alone isn't sufficient for access.

Another option we touched on earlier, but will expand on now, is using a password manager like NordPass to protect your email account. With NordPass, you can generate highly secure passwords for your email and all your other accounts, and store them all in an encrypted vault accessible only to you. You can also use NordPass as an authenticator app to provide two-factor authentication codes for enhanced security.

Additionally, NordPass comes with two major features that can help you significantly enhance your email account’s security. The first is the Data Breach Scanner feature, which, as you already know, scans the dark web to check if your email has been compromised. The other feature is Email Masking, which lets you create an artificial email address when you sign up for newsletters or online services, ensuring that you can avoid exposing your real email address if you choose not to.

NordPass offers all these features to help you elevate the security of your email account and more. Given its value, it would be a missed opportunity not to try it out in its 14-day trial, wouldn't it? The choice is yours.

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