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Few things can ruin your day quite like having your email account hacked. Indeed, it’s hard to have a digital life without an e-mail address, and that has resulted in most people putting all of their eggs in a single, tempting basket.

I mean, it should go without saying that there’s so much to go for. Shopping. Social media. Online storage. Web hosting. With that in mind, here’s a run-down of the damage that can happen when your email account gets hacked. Don’t have nightmares.

They Go After Your Friends

“Are you alright? What happened man?”

After three frantic tries, my friend finally picked up his phone. I was concerned about his safety. And then he picked up the phone, casual as always. “Hey Matt, what’s up?”.

A few hours beforehand, I’d received an email from him. He was in Madrid on business, and he’d been in an incident. His wallet had been stolen, along with all of his credit and debit cards. He needed me to wire him £500 to pay for his hotel, as well as expenses for the remaining few days of his trip.

Whilst his cards were missing, he would be able to pick up the funds with his passport. All I needed to do was send it with Western Union: a popular money transfer services used extensively by people sending remittances that circumvents the slow and expensive banking system, as well as scammers and crooks How I Nearly Got Conned Via A Western Union Transfer Scam How I Nearly Got Conned Via A Western Union Transfer Scam Here's a little story about the latest "Nigerian scam", which is all too obvious in hindsight and yet so believable when you're on the hook. Read More . Just think of it as the original PayPal, offering affordable international money transfer services to the masses.

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Except, none of that was true. He wasn’t in Madrid. He hadn’t been mugged. His wallet wasn’t stolen, and he didn’t need me to send him cash. His e-mail had been hacked, and the attacker was using his e-mail to take advantage of the kindness of his friends.

Your Gmail account is your Rolodex. If someone gets hold of it, they can take advantage of every single contact and relationship you have.

They wipe your computer

“In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.”

Two years ago, Mat Honan had a really, really bad day.

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After pulling off a number of cunning social engineering What Is Social Engineering? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is Social Engineering? [MakeUseOf Explains] You can install the industry’s strongest and most expensive firewall. You can educate employees about basic security procedures and the importance of choosing strong passwords. You can even lock-down the server room - but how... Read More attacks, Mat Honan saw his entire world eviscerated. Could it happen to you? Well, yes. Like most people, the devices I own have tight-integration with cloud services, including my MacBook Pro and my Blackberry Q10. And, of course, these are devices which can be remotely wiped.

Should an attacker gain control of your e-mail, it’s entirely possible for them to access services such as iCloud, Google Play My Devices, and Blackberry Protect. And that can’t be good.

They Ruin Your Reputation

Hunter Moore will likely be occupying a jail cell in the foreseeable future. It’s doubtful many people will be sad to see him go. For too long, the so-called king of revenge porn had built a following (and a fortune) on the back of publishing salacious photos of young women without their consent.

The photos themselves never were intended to make their way to IsAnyoneUp.com. This (since deleted) website hosted the majority of these photos, which were mostly sourced from hacked PhotoBucket and e-mail accounts, in addition to the countless photos uploaded by jilted lovers and ex-partners.

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Let’s face it. It’s becoming more and more commonplace for people to send naked photos of themselves to other people. There’s even a verb for it. Sexting. If you send potentially damaging photos on your e-mail account, they could be exploited should anyone get into it. Just use SnapChat.

Buy Goods And Services

This should be pretty self-explanatory. Lots of websites which accept payment often retain credit card information in order to offer a more streamlined user experience. And whilst some – like Amazon – require that you re-type your credit card number when you send to a new address, others do not.

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And obviously, your accounts on these sites are linked to your email address, right? All it takes is to reset a few passwords, and someone can go to town on your bank account. Not fun.

Delete Your Accounts

Imagine logging into Facebook or Twitter, only to find that your account is… Well? Gone. I’ve written about what happens Banned: What Happens When Facebook Doesn't Like You [Feature] Banned: What Happens When Facebook Doesn't Like You [Feature] When I interviewed Mark S. Zuckerberg, I thought that he was a charming, polite guy. When he talked, he did so with a typically Midwestern drawl. He has raised a large family and has a... Read More when your social presence is eviscerated overnight. It’s horrible. Horrible.

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Let’s be honest, an email account is a gateway to other accounts. And if someone was so inclined. they could easily go to town deleting each aspect of your digital life, from Facebook to Dropbox. Scared? Thankfully, it’s possible to protect yourself.

Cover Your Back

There are some great ways to protect your e-mail account. The best, and simplest, is to set up two-factor authentication Lock Down These Services Now With Two-Factor Authentication Lock Down These Services Now With Two-Factor Authentication Two-factor authentication is the smart way to protect your online accounts. Let's take a look at few of the services you can lock-down with better security. Read More , along with a strong, complex password Everything You Need To Know About Passwords Everything You Need To Know About Passwords Passwords are important and most people don't know enough about them. How do you choose a strong password, use a unique password everywhere, and remember them all? How do you secure your accounts? How do... Read More . You might also want to consider using a different e-mail address for your social accounts, shopping and personal communications.

Ever had your e-mail account hacked? Got a horror story? Just want to tell me what you thought about this article? Drop me a comment, eh?

Photo Credits: mouse trap Via Shutterstock, Western Union (Seth Anderson) , Shopping ( Milkey Jones), Facebook Account Permanently Deleted (Stephen Edgar), OS X Mavericks (Seth Anderson) , Snapchat (Ryan Nagelmann)

  1. Boniface
    August 7, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    I think the most is important thing is to follow simple instructions. Some people will be guided on this website but they just ignore.
    Well, I have been a hacking follower and i can tell that most people mess up over small things

    • Fani
      October 18, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      I antagonized a scam artist and regret it because I basically made the target on my back that much more satisfying :(

  2. ScamVictim220
    January 13, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    DO NOT USE SNAPCHAT! That's how I was exploited! Apparently, there are apps where you can send previously taken footage and send it as a snap AND the only thing the scammer has to do to save your photos is turn their device on airplane mode, open the snap, screenshot it and you'll NEVER know. Until they send it back to you of course!!

  3. adele hollings
    November 19, 2015 at 12:55 am

    Ive made this friend on Facebook danial Wilson USA and he kept asking for my email I only use it for email as ive got a different onefor fFacebook but the oneiI gave me is not used for any think but my email he kept saying he is in love with me and he works in emails in the USA I am Adele Hollings look at him on my profile I'm worried now as he as only got 4 friends and all of us are women

  4. CoolHappyGuy
    June 5, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    SnapChat is no guarantee that photos won't be retained. The recipient only needs to do a screen capture.

  5. Mark P
    June 4, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Thank god for two step verification. Short of someone stealing my phone, Is there any way for people to hack into my Google authenticator to bypass my two step?

    • Bubba
      June 6, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      Yes, but not easily. If you lock and encrypt your phone, it is much more difficult. All non-trivial computer programs are flawed, therefore exploitable. Just make it much easier to go after other people.

  6. dragonmouth
    June 4, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    You have nobody to blame but yourself. Nobody twisted your arm to join every social network there is. Nobody held a gun to your head to integrate and interlock all your accounts. Nobody forced you to put all your data, trust and faith in the cloud. You definitely made things very convenient for yourself, but in doing so you also made it much more convenient for hackers and miscreants to attack and wipe you out. Convenience has a price - security and safety. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. How convenient is it to rebuild your digital life from scratch?

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