What Can Hackers Do With My Email Address? A Lot. Here’s How to Protect Your Identity
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Your email address is a "big tile to the mosaic of your life," and an under-the-radar gateway to identity theft. (Photo: Getty)
If you’re like most people, you’ve had the same email address for ages and everyone knows it. You probably use your email for everything from newsletter subscriptions to social media log-ins without giving it a second thought. After all, it’s just your email address, right?
It’s not that simple. Your email address is actually a precious commodity for hackers because it’s essentially “a tile to the mosaic of your life,” says Adam Levin, cyber security expert and founder of CyberScout. And it’s a big tile, because once a scammer connects your email address to your name, the rest of the mosaic can materialize, and that could include your social security number, driver’s license and other identity-theft ammo.
How does a scammer use your email address against you?
Login into account in email envelope and fishing for private financial account information. Vector concept of phishing scam, hacker attack and web security
Email theft is a common occurrence — 1.68 billion email credentials were stolen in 2018 alone, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center — and it can have far-reaching repercussions. Think of how often you use your email address as a username for online log-ins, for instance. “Hackers who want to break into your online accounts now have 50 percent of the puzzle,” says Levin.
Once your email address is on a scammer’s radar, it’s game on. In a laser-focused attempt to learn your online passwords, they can delve into your personal information or even fire off well-disguised phishing emails to get you to disclose the passwords yourself. And if a hacker is able to break into your actual email account, they can start accessing all of your associated accounts and even lock you out while they’re busy doing damage.
The damage can extend even beyond you. “With the password of the main email, hackers can impersonate the [owner], send emails to their contact list or send private messages through social networks,” Rafael Lourenco is Executive Vice President of fraud-prevention organization ClearSale, tells Yahoo Life. “The attacker can spread viruses... They may have access to your physical address, phone numbers, purchase history, workplaces, etc.”
Levin calls this pandemic-like phenomenon “the digital equivalent of a super spreader.”
LastPass Premium syncs across all your devices. (Photo: LastPass)
The good news is there are things you can do right now to prevent such a nightmare from ever happening. One is to make your passwords impossible to guess and to change them regularly. But who has time to constantly update passwords manually across all their online accounts? The solution is simple: delegate the job to LastPass Premium, an online password manager that puts the process on autopilot.
Try LastPass Premium as a free trial for 30 days. After that, it’s $1.99 a month for ultimate password protection.