Hackers hijacking your 'canceled' e-mail accounts - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Hackers hijacking your 'canceled' e-mail accounts

By Derrick Rose bio | email | Twitter

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Anyone who knows Laura Neff knows she's never more than a couple clicks away. "I email a lot, back and forth all day," she laughed.  

The same thing that brings her smiles has also brought frustration the last 2 months. "I thought, that's not going to happen to me, that happens to other people," Neff shrugged.

But it did happen.

Someone hacked into her email account. Eight years of contacts and messages were in someone else's hands. "All of a sudden, people who were on my distribution list who I hadn't heard from in 5 years were emailing me saying, 'Did you email me this link to a pharmacy site?'"

That same week, Neff discovered someone got ahold of her bank card number. Not knowing if the two events were related, she tried closing that email account.

Instead of shutting it down completely, though, the company put the account on a 90 day wait in case Neff changed her mind about canceling the account. "Thinking, at least the account is inactive, so hopefully that will stop this problem and within the space of two to 3 weeks, it was hacked 6 or 7 more times."

Computer security experts call it e-mail hijacking. It's where organizations harvest clean email accounts to send out spam or hackers use to grab personal information.

The easiest way to beat it, experts recommend, and Neff later found, is changing your password and making it stronger. "That's what I did and when I changed it to something very difficult to discern, it stopped."

It's brought back the smiles and with them, peace of mind.

TIPS TO AVOID E-MAIL HIJACKING

Create Strong Passwords

Creating a strong password includes both letters and numbers, upper and lower case, making it difficult for hackers to crack. The easier a password is for you to remember, the easier it is for hackers to solve.

Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.

Delete vs. Dormant 

Check with your email account service and find out if they immediately delete the account or leave it dormant for a period of time first. In either case, create a strong password.

Location 

Be careful about where you log onto your account. Only use computers you trust.

Read User Agreement

Before signing up for a new account, look at the fine print to find out how the email service handles canceling accounts.

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