A strong password is necessary to protect yourself from cybercriminals gaining access to your online accounts. But what happens if an unauthorized user manages to access your email address?
Keep reading to learn more about some of the top scenarios that may take place if a cyber attacker ever gets a hold of your email address.
How Do Cybercriminals Access Your Account?
Weak passwords, password reuse and data breaches are some of the most common ways cybercriminals can access your email address. Roughly 81% of data breaches are due to poor password security, according to Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report.
You must practice password hygiene to mitigate the chances of a cybercriminal successfully obtaining access to your email. If you do not, your email address may become compromised by a brute force attack or another attack method.
Four Ways Your Email Address Can Be Exploited by Scammers
Below are a few common scenarios that can occur if a cyber attacker ever compromises your email address.
1) Unauthorized Account Access by Clicking “Forgot Password”
Since your email address is often connected to your other online accounts, a cybercriminal can use your compromised email address to lock you out of your accounts.
Suppose you have a primary email address that is used for logging into platforms such as your online bank account, social media accounts or work portal. In that case, a cybercriminal can simply click on “Forgot Password” and follow the email instructions to reset your login details to your other online accounts. Once completed, the cybercriminal will have unauthorized access to any account they’ve managed to reset.
Even if you have enabled Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), scammers who access your email address can bypass MFA if your second authentication method is done through email verification.
2) Identity Theft
In 2021, 27 million United States consumers fell victim to identity fraud scams, amounting to a staggering loss of $28 billion, according to the Javelin 2022 Identity Fraud Study.
Cybercriminals can use your email address to steal your identity, as your email address is often the starting point for many identity thieves. Your emails contain a library of personal information that can be used against you.
For example, after accepting a job offer from a new company, it is not uncommon for new employees to fill out forms containing personal information such as bank account details, home address, legal name and date of birth. If your email contains your social security number or financial information, you could easily fall victim to identity theft.
Once your email address is in the hands of a cybercriminal, they can easily impersonate you to your colleagues, friends and family. For example, a scammer may use your email account to create and send phishing emails to your network, claiming to be in financial trouble and asking your circle of friends to send them money.
In 2021, phishing attacks hit an all-time high. There were more than 300,000 attacks recorded in December, according to the Phishing Activity Trends Report for Q4 2021. With over 50% of all phishing emails containing malware, your compromised email address can negatively impact anyone in your network.
4) Acquisition of Other Sensitive Information
As mentioned above, your email address can be a hub that contains details about you and your life. Not only can it lead to identity theft, but it can also give cybercriminals insight into your day-to-day activities.
For example, if you purchase a flight or a hotel room and receive a confirmation email regarding these purchases, a criminal can use this information to know your whereabouts. The criminal can take advantage of this information by robbing your home when you’re out of town. A compromised email address puts both your online and offline identities in danger.
How to Protect Yourself from Scammers
Strengthen your security by using cybersecurity solutions and practicing good hygiene to protect yourself from potential cyber threats. Use these suggestions to reduce the risks of becoming a victim of cyber attacks.
Create strong passwords. Use a random password generator to create unique passwords that are difficult to crack. Strong passwords use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special symbols that are harder to guess through a brute force attack.
Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Even if a cyber attacker ever gets access to your email, enabling 2FA/MFA using SMS or using a password manager with TOTP codes integrated can stop any unauthorized access since the cyber attacker is required to input additional information through a second or even a third verification method they don’t have access to.
Use a dark web monitoring tool. A dark web monitoring tool will notify you if your credentials are found on the dark web, prompting you to change your password before any potential damages ensue.
Strengthen security measures. A cybersecurity solution that offers advanced reporting and alerts can audit your security posture and give you an idea of your weak points, prompting you and your team to take preventative action before any cyber attackers take advantage of any vulnerabilities.
How Keeper Protects Your Business from Cybercriminals
Keeper Security offers cybersecurity solutions to protect your personal information from getting into the hands of a cybercriminal. Our password management tool is built on a zero-knowledge architecture with 256-bit AES encryption, ensuring that only you get access to your passwords and sensitive data.
Ready to try Keeper? Start a free trial for yourself or your business.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do cybercriminals want your email address?
Access to an email address opens the door to several opportunities for a cybercriminal. Cybercriminals can use your email to send phishing scams to others in your network and trick them into clicking on malicious links, opening malware attachments or sharing personal information.
By gaining access to one email address, cybercriminals can potentially gain access to multiple accounts using the same email.
Should I be worried if a scammer has my email address?
Yes. If a scammer gets a hold of your email address, you are at risk of multiple compromised accounts. To prevent your email address from falling into the wrong hands, avoid registering your email address with unnecessary websites.
If your email address is found on a company mailing list, and the company suffers from a data breach, your email address may be exposed to cyber threats. As a result, your inbox may start flooding with suspicious phishing emails.
Should I delete my email if it was hacked?
Deleting a compromised email address is not advised since most email providers will recycle your old email address. Instead, use these steps if your email address gets hacked.
Who do I contact if I have been hacked?
If you have been hacked, get in touch with your friends, family and colleagues and let them know your account has been compromised. Notifying your network will prevent them from clicking on suspicious links from your compromised accounts.
If you are a victim of identity fraud, submit a report on the Federal Trade Commission website to retrieve a recovery plan.