Email has become the most popular method for transferring information between people. We exchange emails on a regular basis not only with friends and family, but also with co-workers, stores, service providers, banks, doctors, and more.
Where is all this information being stored? On servers, up there in the information “cloud” where we have no control over it at all. To make matters worse, what’s being stored there often includes private information such as social security numbers, credit card information and more that, if stolen by hackers, can have devastating consequences. For example, hackers with access to your credit cards can max them out. Cybercriminals can take out loans on your name and ruin your credit.
Here are the top 10 things in your email that are putting you at a high risk for identity theft and other types of cybercrime. If you have any of these pieces of information in your email, take measures to protect that information now, before you get hacked.
- Tax forms
These are treasure troves for cybercriminals. If you’ve ever emailed tax forms to a lawyer, an accountant, or anyone else, you’ve put hacking gold into your email. Tax forms include all of your financial details: your full name and address, social security number, income, owned property, investments, names and details of family members and bank account numbers. Armed with this information, cybercriminals can easily impersonate you and steal your identity.
- Scanned documents.
Most people never give these a second thought. They scan bank statements, contracts, invoices, ID cards and other documents containing important private information and then they email them. One of the first things some hackers do is look for emails with attachments. They’ll flip through these until they find the scanned documents they’re looking for.
- Invoices and receipts
Everyone has these in their email, but did you ever stop to think about what information they contain? Names and addresses, credit card information (partial or even complete), specifications about items that are going to be delivered soon, and more. It’s easy to see how a criminal could use this information. Hackers can call vendors and impersonate you, change and divert packages or simply use the information to purchase other items and charge your credit card.
- Travel itineraries
Your travel agent or an airline emails you flight tickets or travel itineraries, hotel vouchers, schedules, etc. Most people don’t realize that, coupled with your home address, this information tells criminals when you’ll be away from your home and when breaking in may be easiest.
- Plain text passwords
Believe it or not, some people still email each other their passwords. Bad idea! Some online services even do this when you change your credentials, which is no good. There’s an online list for “plain text password offenders.” It contains the names of services that send users passwords by email, exposing them to hackers and endangering the accounts. Look it up. You’ll be amazed.
- Work documents
A high percentage of organizational hacks begin with employees’ private email accounts. This is because people often send themselves emails from work or have co-workers send work-related documents to their private accounts so they can access them from home. What some people don’t realize is that, by doing this, they’re circumventing the security measures put in place by their employer. When sensitive documents are stolen or when the office network is breached and it’s traced back to you, you’ll be really sorry.
- Medical information
Many clinics and hospitals today send medical information via email. No one wants their private medical information to be scrutinized by unauthorized individuals. But beyond the issue of privacy, medical information can be used for blackmail, insurance scams and various types of medial identity theft.
- Private photos
It’s obvious that protecting personal photographs is important, this was made abundantly clear by the recent celerity photo scandal. What most people don’t realize is that deleted photos, photos from a smartphone, and photos sent over instant messaging apps like WhatsApp can find their way into your email account inadvertently. Smartphones often sync photos to the email account the phone is associated with.
- Contacts list
Your email account doubles as your contacts list. Everyone you’re in touch with is listed there. Most email services will also index contacts from every email exchange you’ve had, not only those contacts you manually add to your contacts list. Furthermore, when you sync your smartphone contacts with your email contacts list, every contact and phone number from your mobile device is in there as well. Contact lists are sold by hackers to spammers that will flood your friends’ and family’s inboxes with junk mail, scam mail and phishing message.
- I forgot my password
your email account is full of messages from other services: updates from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Updates from Amazon and EBay, Dropbox, iTunes and so on. When a hacker gets into your email, this is how he’ll see what services you’re using. Next, he’ll use one of the biggest and nastiest security loopholes of our times: “I forgot my password”. Taking over these services may be as easy as simply clicking the “I forgot my password” link in each of these services and then using the reset password emails that are sent to your email, which is now the hacker’s to take control of all your accounts.
Take Control of Your Security
Perhaps now more than ever, it’s crucial to take a hands-on approach regarding your privacy and the security of your personal data and online accounts (Gmail, Facebook, Dropbox, etc.). Fortunately, you can use a number of freely available tools to help better protect your personal information. Here are a few suggestions:
- Get an antivirus solution for both your PC and phone. Check out these recommends for the Best Free PC Antivirus Software and Top 5 Android Security Apps.
- Never reuse the same password across multiple online accounts, and always make sure you use strong passwords that include letters, numbers, and at least one symbol. To keep track of your passwords and keep them safe and secure, use a password manager like LastPass or PasswordBox.
- Use two-factor authentication on all of your accounts to enhance security.
- Get LogDog, a free anti-hacking. It protects your personal data and valuable accounts (Gmail, Facebook, Dropbox and more) and alerts you to any suspicious activity so you can take control of your account before a hacker does.
The service can be used across all devices and OS’s, so you’re always being protected. Here’s the Android and iOS links for you to check out.
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