Gmail accounts being compromised by hackers and spammers happens all too often. If it hasn’t happened to you directly, you have undoubtedly received bogus emails from your contacts that were taken over by hackers, peddling work-from-home offers or often just a lonely unassuming (but malicious) link. If you or a friend are ever in this situation, there are ten steps to gain control of your account and make sure the bad guys don’t get back in.
- If you no longer have access to your account, you can fill out the Gmail Account Retrieval Form.
- Scan your computer for viruses and malware. This is the most common way that the hackers get your password in the first place.
- Change your password. Your password should not be easy to guess and you should not use your email password on other websites. The second most common way that the spammers get your password is by breaking into less secure websites that store your password.
- Verify your mobile phone, security questions and alternate email is correct. Often times the bad guys will change this information to their own so that they can get back into your account after you reset your password.
- Enable two factor authentication. When you (or the bad guys) try to login to your account on a new computer, Google will send you a text message with a second password that the hacker’s don’t have access to.
- Check your signature and vacation responder. Many times, the spammers will leave their links in your signature or out-of-office reply so that you continue to send their spam emails after they have lost control of your email account.
- Delete any unfamiliar email accounts set to “Send mail as” in your Gmail account settings. Spammers will often attach your email account to theirs using this setting, which allows them to continue to send email that looks like it comes from you.
- Delete any services that you do not recognize in “Connected applications and sites”. These 3rd party application and sites can still be used to send messages to your contacts.
- Check email filters and remove any that forward emails to an unknown email address or that delete messages. Often times, the hackers will simply tell Gmail to forward your emails to their email account and delete your copy. For example, they will create a mailbox rule that forwards any message with “Your temporary Chase.com password” and then deletes the copy on your account. Long after you have control of your email back, they can still reset your other important accounts.
- Make sure you keep your system up to date with security patches, particularly your web browser, operating system, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, antivirus and Java security updates.
Following these ten simple steps, you are guaranteed to have a much safer email experience, and hopefully never have to go through the hassle and embarrassment or recovering your account from spammers.