Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

If friends (especially ex-friends) are looking at your email and they have access to your account, I would seriously consider that you treat this has a hacked email account.

If an ex-friend puts my email on their PC, will my email go to them and my PC also? My ex-friend says that they're getting my email. Can this be?

In this excerpt from Answercast #61, I look at a case where ex-friends are suspected of reading private email. This should be treated like a hacked email case.

Ex-friend hackers

Absolutely, it can be. Exactly what happens depends on how both your machine and your friend's machine are configured to grab your email.

It is possible that they could be looking at your email and you would never know because you're looking at it, too. They may have it configured to use a service called IMAP or they may be leaving copies on the server - which implies that, to you, there would be no evidence that they would be looking at your email.

On the other hand, if they're configuring their email to use something like POP 3 (where they're literally downloading your email to their machine), it's very possible that not only are they looking at your email, but they could be downloading it and preventing you from seeing your email.

Secure your account

So, what to do? Very, very simple:

  • If you don't want other people looking at your email, don't give them your account information. It's just that simple.

  • If they are looking at your email and you want to stop them, change your password. That way, the password that they have will stop working and they'll be denied access to your email.

Hacked email account

If they have hacked into your account? Well, then you need to take a look at the "7 Things You Need to Do Now" article that will walk you through all of the things you should be doing whenever somebody has hacked into your account with malicious intent.

In fact, if your friends (especially if they're your ex-friends) are looking at your email and they do in fact have access to your account, I would seriously consider that you treat this has a hacked email account - and you immediately take all of those steps to secure it again, so that you are the only one that can actually see, read, and download your email.

Article C5917 - October 14, 2012 « »

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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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1 Comment
October 14, 2012 2:35 PM

After reading both this article as well as the one you link to, which I both find excellent, I would like to add another technique that might "survive" the password change.
The perpetrators could have set up a forward address, either directly or via a filter (gmail lets you do this, filter e-mail and sent to another account) in order to get a copy of all your e-mails.

I understand that you did mention recovery information, but since this is not always on the critical information page, some people might miss this. I would advise anyone with a hacked account to review their account settings in their entirety and make sure they realise what everything does and why it's there.

Also, in this time and age, make sure that you do not have unattended access set up for your pc, otherwise you might be giving away your information. That however is a different article set from Leo entirely.

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