Recently I received the following email:
“Dear Steve,
How are you ? I need a Favor from you.
I’ll need to get an Ebay gift card for my Niece, it’s her birthday today and i totally forgot i can’t do this now because I’m currently on a short trip.Can you get it from any store around you? I will pay as soon as i am back.this needs to be done with ease
Kindly let me know if you can handle this.


Patricia XXXXX”
The email came from the email address of a person who is a friend and client of mine, but it was pretty clear to me that Patricia ( I have xed out her last name)  had not sent the email.  Rather, her email had been hacked and used to send emails to people on Patricia’s contact list asking for gift cards which are the equivalent of cash.  As I often tell you, you can never be sure who is actually calling you on the phone, sending you a text message or sending you an email.  Therefore you should never give personal information, credit card information, gift card information or wire money in response to such a communication unless you have absolutely confirmed that the communication is legitimate.  Gift cards and wiring money are two of the favorite ways that people are scammed so when you are asked to provide either of those, you should always be skeptical.
But what do you do if your email account is hacked?
Here are the steps you should take if your email account is hacked:
1.  Report the hacking to your email provider.
2.  Change your security question.  I often suggest that people use a nonsensical security question because the information could not be guessed or obtained by research online. For instance, you may want the question to be “What is your favorite color?” with the answer being “seven.”
3. Change your password on your email account.  If you use the same password for other accounts, you should change those as well.
4.  Contact people on your email list and let them know you have been hacked and not to click on links in emails that may appear to come from you.
5.  Scan your computer thoroughly with an up to date anti-virus and anti-malware program.  This is important because the hacker may have tried to install a keystroke logging malware program that can steal all of the information from your computer.
5.  Review the settings on your email, particularly make sure that your email is not being forwarded somewhere.
6.  Get a free copy of your credit report.  You can get your free credit reports from  Some other sites promise free credit reports, but sign you up for other services that you probably don’t want or need.   You should then consider signing up for an identity theft protection service if you have not already done so.   I also personally endorse Identron as an identity theft protection service.  For more information about Identron use this link.
7.  If you have not already done so, put a credit freeze on your credit reports at all of the major credit reporting agencies.  Here are links to each of them with instructions about how to get a credit freeze:
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