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If your Hotmail account has been hacked it may be nearly impossible to stop it from sending messages to your contacts, even if you do regain control.

I deleted my email address on Hotmail, because it was used by somebody else in my name. That person used all my contacts and is still sending emails in my name to everybody. How can I stop him from doing it after I canceled my Hotmail account?

You can't.

There are many reasons why this could be happening, and there's simply no approach that will allow you to take control and guarantee that you can stop it.

Once your account has been compromised, there's very little you can do.

Let me explain why I paint such a grim picture.

Closing Your Account Doesn't Help

The fundamental concept here is that closing your Hotmail account will not help.

"It's a pretty grim picture."
  • It probably won't stop spammers from sending email that "looks like" it came from the account.

  • It probably won't stop spammers from sending email that actually does come from the account.

  • It probably won't stop spammers from sending email to the contacts from the account.

  • It probably won't stop a hacker from regaining access to the account.

  • It probably won't notify anyone that the account's been closed, and it won't cause messages sent to that account to bounce.

It's a pretty grim picture: it certainly makes not getting the account compromised in the first place a pretty important thing.

So, you close your account. And the spam to your contacts continues... how's that possible?

I can think of a couple of ways.

The spammer reactivated your account

In my opinion, this is the most likely thing to have happened. When you close an account, you're typically given a grace period to change your mind. After closing the account, simply logging into it may reactivate it. And, remember, spammers are determined. They don't care if it involves some kind of password recovery dance.

If the spammer has any way of recovering your password (perhaps they set it, know your secret answers or changed your recovery email address), then they can swoop in once the account's been closed, recover access to the account, and undo the close.

Why is Hotmail set up this way? Unfortunately, it has to be.

Think about it: if the spammer closed the account on you, wouldn't you want a way to re-open it? Well, that way to re-open it works in both directions. If the spammer knows any of the information that can be used to recover access to your account, then they too can re-open it.

The spammer copies your address book

While the spammer has access to your hacked account prior to you closing it, it's extremely easy for them to export a copy of your contact list. Once they have that, they don't need your account any more. Even if you do manage to successfully close the account and it stays closed, they can send email to your contacts using any other email account.

And yes, even though they don't have access to your account, they can make it look like it came from your account. "From: spoofing" is an extremely common and easy task for spammers to accomplish. It's easy to make an email that looks like it came from your email address without having any access to your actual account.

So What Can You Do?

Besides taking the appropriate steps to prevent your account from being hacked in the first place, there's little that can be done after the hack that stands much of a chance of getting full control back.

If you do regain control of your account, change everything. Change your password and every little bit of account profile information that could be used by a hacker to do a password recovery or otherwise re-hack your account.

That might help. Sadly, it might be too late, as we've seen above.

Otherwise, simply open up a new account, use it to tell all of your contacts to ignore anything coming from your old account, and move on.

And then, make sure you take all necessary precautions so that it doesn't happen again.

Article C4735 - February 5, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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10 Comments
Mark Jacobs
February 6, 2011 2:02 AM

To me it seems very interesting that almost all of the account hacking questions on Ask-Leo are problems concerning HoTMaiL accounts. Perhaps one preventive measure would be to use an account other than HoTMaiL I don't mean this to be sarcastic. It just seems to me that HoTMaiL is the least secure of the big 3 freemail providers.

Eileen Hughes
February 8, 2011 8:23 AM

I take my mail off the server. If there is anything I don't want I delete it there. I don't know how this is set up but that is what I do.

Alex Dow
February 8, 2011 9:18 AM

If that enquirer has opened a different e-mail account, preferably with another ISP etc, then he/she should send e-mails to his Regular Contacts from that NEW Account, advising them to add the OLD address to their Rejects Lists.

mike flash
February 8, 2011 1:31 PM

I think Alex Dow is spot on, on how to handle your problem.

Bruno Vissu
February 8, 2011 3:37 PM

You're all right, the author first, and the readers too: hotmail seems vulnerable; an account, once spoiled... at least for sure the contact list is copied; creating a new address and asking all your contacts to handle old address as junk is advisable... as long as your friends understand what you're talking about. Not an easy one...
I recently had the case with 2 of my contacts, one brother and a friend, both on hotmail. Their hotmail ID is used to send me (typically in minutes as they send me a real mail - it may even look like minutes BEFORE) to a funny address (not mine) but ending up in my mailbox. As, just to see, I tried to respond to or even forward to another address the message, hotmail just filtered it and prevented me to send it (funny it does not do it when it entered my mailbox). FYI, copying the all content of these mails in a plain text editor and pasting from it in a new message was accepted to be sent (hidden code?). Both mails contained a link that of course I did not activate. Lucky enough, in our case, it was easy for me to spot. The spammer just forget one thing: none of my 2 friends would ever write 2 me a message in English. We're all French. Common sense helps but is not a guarantee... Thank you for what you're doing. Rgds.

Robert George Douglas
February 9, 2011 12:07 AM

Dear Leo,

I have a similar problem with another email account that I use. I have updated it and continue to do so to keep ahead of the hacker. I would close (abandon ?) the A/C etc but before I do so I would like to transfer the 'desirable' data (some messages and the address book for example) elsewhere, to my PC, for future reference. How best can I do that safely, please ? Your advice would be very much appreciated.

Thank you,

Robert George Douglas

If the service has POP3 access the best approach is to download the email to an email program like Thunderbird on your own PC.
Leo
09-Feb-2011

vishaldhalaria
December 12, 2011 5:37 AM

sir someone use my account and i want to block my account........

Connie
December 12, 2011 9:30 AM

@vishaldhalaria
Unfortunately, as this article points out, there is very little you can do. The only hope is if you can regain access to the account, and then protect it adequately.

Sally Strong
February 9, 2012 8:22 AM

Re: sending spam from a hotmail account - I know the hackers name - it's in the text box - but the worse thing is they are using MY photo - how can I find where that is stored and delete it too?

If you have access to the account it's your profile photo. If you don't have access to the account I'm not aware of a way to remove it.
Leo
10-Feb-2012
merry
May 14, 2012 3:31 PM

can you help me on how to block people like when there not your freinds caz htis preson keeps adding me

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