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There are a lot of ways to protect your personal information and data from scammers. But what happens if your email or social media account gets hacked? Here are some quick steps to help you recover your email or social media account.

Signs that someone hacked your account

Hackers try to take over your accounts. Some might want to steal your personal information – like your usernames and passwords, bank account numbers, or Social Security number – to commit identity theft. Others might want to spread malware or scam others. So, what types of things might tip you off that someone hacked your account and changed your password?

  • You can’t log in to your account
  • You get a notification about a change to your username or password – but you didn’t make that change
  • You get a notification someone logged into your account from a device you don’t recognize or a location you’re not at
  • Your friends or family report getting emails or messages you didn’t send, sometimes with random links or fake pleas for help or money

How to get back into your hacked account

First, make sure your computer security software is up to date, then run a scan. If the scan identifies suspicious software, delete it and restart your computer. Then, follow the provider’s account recovery instructions.

Take steps to secure your account

  1. Change your account password. Create a strong password that’s hard to guess.
  2. Sign out of all devices – this way anyone who’s logged in to your account on another device will get kicked out.
  3. Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA), also known as two-step verification, if it’s available on your accounts. With 2FA, you’ll have to enter your password and something else to log in.
  4. Check your account recovery information. Make sure the recovery email addresses and phone numbers listed are the ones you entered and have access to.

Check for signs that someone had access to your account

Check your email settings to see if there are rules set up to forward emails. Delete any rules you didn’t set up, so your messages aren’t forwarded to someone else’s address.

Check your sent folder for emails the hacker sent from your account. Look in your deleted folder for emails the hacker may have read and then deleted.

Check your social media accounts for messages the hacker posted or sent from your account, or for new friends you don’t recognize.

Tell your contacts

Send your friends a quick email or text, or post something, to let them know about the hack. Tell them not to click on links in emails from you and to ignore pleas for help or money.

Why it’s so important to protect your email account

Your email account is an important part of protecting your personal information online. Why? Say you forget your account password and use the password reset feature to get a new one. You get an email with a password reset link, click on it, and change your account password. All in a matter of minutes.

Now, imagine if someone hacked your email account. They could request a password reset link for any of your other accounts, get the password reset link from your inbox, change your password, and lock you out of the account.

That’s why it’s critical to protect your email account by using a strong password and turning on two-factor authentication.