Top 15 Things in Your Email That Are Putting You at Risk
Did you know that one in four email accounts today gets hacked? That’s crazy.
Basically, that statistic translates to this: If you haven’t already been hacked, prepare. It’s bound to happen sooner or later.
Why? Because hackers know your email account is full of information that’ll make it easy to steal your identity.
From credit card numbers to medical information to your dog’s name (hey, it may help answer that security question from your online banking site) – your email account is a hacker’s gold mine.
Here are the top 15 things in your email that make you a prime target for hackers and seriously up your chances of having your identity stolen.
1. Forgot your password?
If you use services like Twitter, Facebook or Dropbox, or shop at online sites like eBay or Amazon, safe to say you’ve received at least one email from these service providers.
That one email is all it takes for a hacker to learn that you use a particular service and take over the account.
Once he knows what sites you’re on, he simply uses the “Forgot my password” mechanism to reset your password and take over control of your accounts.
2. Tax forms
Ever emailed your accountant your tax forms?
Did you take a minute to consider the insane amount of personal information those forms contain? Probably not.
For most of us, emailing our tax forms is so convenient we won’t even consider an alternative.
Tax forms have all of your financial details in them:
- Your full name and address
- Social security number
- Owned property
- Investments and more.
A hacker who gets his hands on your tax forms? Let’s just say he’s having a good day.
3. Scanned documents
Here’s a simple way to never lose sight of an important document: scan it and email it to yourself.
Even better, put the document name in the email’s subject line.
Most of us never think twice about scanning documents like bank statements, contracts and ID cards.
But with the likelihood of our email account getting hacked, it’s high time we started being smarter about the documents we scan and send.
4. Invoices and receipts
Everyone has these in their email, but have you ever stopped to think about what information they contain?
An innocent little receipt from your last online purchase might contain addresses, credit card information (partial or even complete), specifications about items that are going to be delivered soon, and more.
It doesn’t take much to imagine how a criminal might 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.
5. Travel itineraries
Yay! You’re going to Vegas!
Here’s your travel itinerary to prove it!
And you’ve even emailed it to mom and pop so they can sleep better at night while you’re away.
Thing is, while they’re sleeping soundly, that same email is keeping a criminal up all night (as he goes through your home swiping all your valuables while you’re on vacation).
6. Plain text passwords
If you’re one of those people who still emails yourself your account passwords, please take a moment to apply a light but efficient slap to the back of your hand.
Passwords in plain text can’t be any easier for hackers to manipulate.
Worse yet, some service providers even email these when you change your credentials!
(Check out Plain Text Offenders to learn which ones.)
Permanently delete any email that contains a password of yours—which means deleting it from your Trash, too! Right now. Don’t wait.
Tip: want to find and delete all those passwords and other compromising info in your email? Use this amazing tool to scan & protect your inbox. Protect yourself from identity theft today!
7. Work documents
It’s Friday. You’re at the office.
You’ve spent so much time daydreaming about the vacation you’ll be on next week that you’re nowhere close to completing the project you’re working on.
No worries! You can finish up your work tonight from home, or tomorrow if you really have to.
Just make sure to email yourself all the materials you’ll need.
Bad! By emailing work documents to yourself, you’re circumventing the security measures your employer has put in place.
When sensitive documents are stolen or when the office network is breached and it’s traced back to you, let’s hope you’re still on that vacation…
8. Medical information
Our healthcare providers have really embraced technology in recent years.
Nowadays, you might receive an email from a clinic or hospital containing your medical information.
Having unauthorized eyes on your medical documents is one thing.
But hackers can accomplish much more than embarrassing you once they’ve obtained your medical information.
Think blackmail and insurance scams, and let that thought accompany you in promptly removing all medical information from your email account.
9. Personal photos
We’re not celebs, so why should we care if our photos are hacked?
Err… I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I feel about my personal photos.
I’d like those kept to myself, thank you very much.
If you’re like me, you’ll make sure you don’t have any personal photos hanging around in your email. Be sure to check images sent from apps like WhatsApp, too!
10. Contacts list
Your email account doubles as your contacts list.Everyone you’re in touch with is in there.
And, to make your life easier, most email services will index contacts from any email exchange you’ve ever had, not only those with contacts you manually add to your contacts list.
When you sync your smartphone contacts with your email contacts, every contact and phone number from your mobile device gets into your email account as well.
Why would a hacker want these lists?
Because they can sell contact lists to spammers who will flood your friends’ and family’s inboxes with junk mail, scam mail and phishing messages.
11. Financial info
Having your financial information appear in scanned documents is one thing.
Emailing family members or vendors your credit card information is another—and it’s something too many of us have done before.
If you don’t take care to permanently delete these emails, they become treasures waiting to be discovered by hackers.
Keep in mind that financial information isn’t limited to credit card information.
Any information you might find in a credit report or a background check can eventually be used to steal your identity.
And remember: when you email sensitive information, it may get leaked not only if your email account gets hacked, but also if the recipient’s account gets hacked.
12. Emails to or from the bank
Fortunately, most banks value your security and will refrain from emailing you sensitive information.
Still, emails to or from your bank can be exploited. How?
First of all, knowing where you bank provides hackers an important piece of information about you.
Second, email exchanges with your bank provide hackers with contextual information they can use as ammo when they pretend to be you while they’re on the phone with your bank, changing your details.
13. To Do lists
You may be surprised to find this one on the list of things that put your email at risk.
But the truth is, these lists can easily contain information that hackers can sneakily use.
For example, you need to fix an online order you’ve recently made.
From this item on your To Do list, the hacker knows you have an outstanding order with a specific online vendor.
A deeper dig in your inbox for order details gives him enough information to do some damage.
Of course, many to do lists will not tip off hackers in any way shape or form, but it’s up to you to make sure that’s the case. May the force be with you!
14. Online shopping orders
Confirmation emails you may receive from an online purchase you’ve made might contain sensitive information a hacker can exploit.
It lets them know which merchants you’re interacting with, opening the way for them to call that merchant and reroute your shipment to their location instead of yours.
Or, if your credit card is stored with that merchant, they can use it to make new purchases without needing to provide your card details.
15. Emails in your trash
This one has more to do with a technicality, and here it is: Deleting an email doesn’t remove it from your email account.
In most cases, it moves it to your Trash folder.
Take out your trash!
To permanently delete an email, you need to delete the emails in your trash folder.
Until that happens, those emails are just as accessible to hackers as the ones sitting in your inbox.
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 app for Android. It protects your personal data and valuable accounts (Gmail, Facebook, Yahoo 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!