You may file this entry under Posts I Wish I Didn’t Need to Write. I hope it’s the only one of its kind.

My tip: change your email password often, at least once every 60 days. Choose a strong password containing letters, numbers, and special characters. Also do not use the same password for your email and any other account. Better yet, enable two step authentication for access to your email.

Our news is flooded with fallout from email hacks that impact powerful people. When I thought about email security, I did not worry so much about me. Who in the world would want to see my emails? If I am scandalous in any way, I disclose that information freely.

I didn’t stop to think that access to a person’s email can be more damaging than the contents of any email, especially if you have no fame or considerable wealth. If someone hacks your email, they can potentially access and alter all of your online interactions, both social and financial. And these changes can do real harm to your offline life, too.

If someone has your email password, they can change your password to online retailers and social media sites.

This is what happened to me: a still unknown hacker obtained access to my email account a couple Saturdays ago. They changed my password to a key online retailer, opened an instant credit account under my name with that retailer, and used that credit to purchase $650 dollars in electronic gift cards. They deleted almost all the emails that were sent to my account regarding the password changes, credit account, and purchases.

If this person hadn’t slipped up and forgotten to delete one of the emails related to a gift card purchase, I would have had no idea that this breach had happened, at least until a collections notice might appear in the mail.

How long did it take for all of this damage to happen? Two hours!

Fortunately, the online retailer and credit card company have been very helpful to me and are both conducting fraud investigations.

I dread the thought of how hard it would have been to fend off these charges if they had went into collections because I had no idea they existed. I shouldn’t have to check my email in the middle of the night, on a weekend, no less. Thank God I did.

No matter what kind of mistakes I’ve made, I try to share them in the hope that someone else can learn from them. If it was important enough to tell others that plaid slacks are a poor fashion choice, it is more crucial that I share my experience with online fraud.

You can spare yourself considerable aggravation by changing your email password often.


Published by Michelle Cole