Help, My Email Account's Been Hijacked!

Having someone hijack your email leaves you feeling helpless.  Here are some steps you can take to take control again.
Having someone hijack your email leaves you feeling helpless. Here are some steps you can take to take control again.

The "I'm writing this with tears in my eyes..." Scam

This morning, my wife and I woke up to find out that someone had broken into her account, locked us out by changing the password, and sent the following email to everyone she had ever been in contact with:

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, I’m sorry i didn't inform you about my trip, I  had a trip to the United Kingdom and a bizarre thing happened to me. I was mugged at a gun point last night, it happened at the park of the Hotel were i lodged but thank God i wasn't hurt, all cash, credit card and cell-phone were stolen off me...but luckily for me i still have my life and passports with me, I was able to make contact with the UK Police and i was directed to the Embassy, but they seems to be taking things too slow.

I need your help so urgently.. My flight leaves pretty soon but i am having problems sorting out the hotel bills I need a quick loan to get things fixed out here, I promise to refund as soon as i get back home.. Please reply asap. So i can tell you what to do and how to get the money to me.

Hope to read from you soon.

We later discovered that anyone who responded to the email received this in response:

Glad to hear back from you. It has really been embarrassing for me.$1,520 will cover all my expenses but i will appreciate whatsoever you can afford to wire right now, I promise to refund it to you as soon as I arrive home. You can wire it to my name from a western union outlet around. Here are the details you need to get it to me;

Name - <removed>
Location - Edinburgh,United Kingdom.

I still have my passport so I can use it as identification, e-mail me the transfer details and the confirmation number include the amount sent.

We have several hours today trying to undo the damage that was done. The perpetrator unsuccessfully tried to log into my wife's Facebook and bank accounts. And once we finally regained control of her account, we found that they had erased all of her contacts so that we could not warn anyone that it was a hoax. They had changed the account to forward all incoming messages to a fake yahoo account. We even found an email that had been sent from her account that had someone else's emails, passwords and birth date!

If you find that your email (or someone that you know) has been hacked in this way, these are the steps that I would recommend that you IMMEDIATELY follow. The longer you wait, the more your bank, paypal, online store accounts are in danger of fraudulently charging your bank cards, and the more likely your contacts will fall for it and send them money.

1. Secure your bank accounts and credit cards

First things first. You got to make sure that your hacker isn't funneling money out of your bank account or buying a Lamborghini in Luxembourg. Call your bank right now and inform them that your account information has likely been compromised. They can immediately look and see if anything has been charged to your account and reverse it. They will probably also want to freeze your debit and credit cards, and may even suggest that you close your account and open a new one.

2. Report to Gmail that your address has been compromised

My wife uses gmail so everything will relate to them. If you use something else, you will have to find the appropriate pages for them.

You do this by going to Gmail, clicking on "Can't access your account," choosing the "My account has been compromised" option, clicking on the "account recovery form" link that appears, and following the link that takes you to, which should be here. Enter your email address.

At this point, gmail told us that they sent instructions to her alternate email. The problem was that the hackers had changed her alternate to a new email they created at yahoo. Gmail said that if this was the case (or if you couldn't answer their security question, which we assume the hackers also changed), you should go here to report it.

Gmail said it could take as long as 24 hours for them to process the report. Luckily, they got back to us in about 20 minutes, just in time to find an email resetting her Facebook password. We apparently stopped them in the nick of time from sending this same message to all of her Facebook contacts!

3. Fix Your Email Settings and Warn Others

You can log into your account but you still don't have control of it. Our hacker set the account to forward all incoming messages to another account so they cold give details of where to send the money. This is how you can stop that from happening:

Click on "Settings" in the upper right hand corner and choose the "Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab in the middle. Under "Forwarding" you will now see where the hackers and redirecting your email to. Make a note of that email and then select "Disable forwarding," scroll down to the bottom of the page and select "save changes."

Now you should warn people that your account has been hacked, you are ok, and they should not send money. If they erased all of your contacts, as they did my wife's, the only thing you can do is respond to the concerned people who email you back. The best and easiest way to do this is to to to the "General" tab (still under "Settings"), scroll down to the "Vacation Responder," turn it on and write a quick note in it like this:

My account was hacked earlier this morning and an email was sent out claiming I was mugged in the UK and needed money sent. None of this is true. DO NOT SEND MONEY. They also deleted my contacts so I have not been able to notify everyone of this until they email me. I am pretty sure I have my account secured again, but if you want to be sure to be safe, you can email me through my other email at ...

Don't forget to scroll down to the very bottom and click "Save changes." You will probably already have several concerned emails in your trash (not inbox, remember when they forwarded your email to their account they asked gmail to delete the messages). MOve them all to the inbox and give them all a quick reply like the one above. Don't take too long, you still have more to do!

4. Secure your accounts

If you haven't done so already, change your Gmail password right now by going to the "Settings" again (upper right hand corner), select the "Accounts and Imports" tab this time, scroll to the bottom and click on "Google account settings." On the new page, under "Personal account settings" > "Change password" you can do it. Come up with a new password that uses letters, numbers, and maybe even a symbol like %.

Chances are that you used your email password for other sites too. Try to remember which ones and go around changing them, starting with the ones that have your credit card information like PayPal,, etc. Don't forget social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter that could be carrying more messages!

5. Report the Fraud

Finally, you should report the incident to (maybe) get it investigated and clean up loose ends.

  • Remember that email that they were forwarding your messages to? Go to that website (in my wife's case, yahoo mail) and report it to them.
  • Report the incident to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
  • Leave a message here and warn everyone about the latest email scam. (copy and paste the actual email in the comment so we can all look out for it!)

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Comments 19 comments

Pitchperfect profile image

Pitchperfect 6 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

Google has given the following instructions to anyone who has been victimized by this or a similar scam.

Pitchperfect profile image

Pitchperfect 6 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

Here's another article by a news company that had their corporate gmail account hacked and a similar message sent to their readers. They apparently had a more difficult time getting it back, with the hackers re-changing their password back several times before they could be permanently kicked off.

They discovered that the thieves got their login info from an email they sent to an intern that had the information, who's email was then broken into by the hackers. Time to go back through my emails and see what personal info is in there...

Pitchperfect profile image

Pitchperfect 6 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

One last update. Gmail just informed us that the hacker accessed her account from Nigeria with this ip address: I assume they also have someone hanging out in Edinburgh to puck up any money any takers wired (which I certainly hope was no one). I think I will go over her computer with another anti-virus/malware program to make sure there's no compromise there too... profile image 6 years ago from Vancouver / Bangkok

Just uninstall windows and then re install it, backup all your photos and important files!

Curiousxx7 profile image

Curiousxx7 6 years ago

I've have several of my friends account compromise as well as mines. Im getting to the point i just don't trust the internet for ridiculous...

Hannah Griscom 6 years ago

My hotmail account was recently hijacked by the same/similar scam. Hotmail has done NOTHING about it in over 4 days. I am afraid I will never be able to log in to it again. Here is the wording used in the email.......


I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, am sorry I did not inform you about my trip. I actually made a quick travel to London (United Kingdom) for a short visit unfortunately, i got mugged at the park of the hotel where I stayed, all cash, credit card and cell were stolen off but luckily for me is that I still have my passports with me.

I've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and my flight leaves in less than 24hrs from now but am having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let me leave until i settle the bills.

Please am waiting to hear from you now.

Bev2Con 5 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

My daugher's Hotmail account was hijacked on a Friday and she was locked out for several days. But the thieves managed to get information sufficient to wipe out her checking account. However, because she had been unemployed for quite a few months, her credit was dismal. This cause any credit card applications submitted by the thieves to be declined. She received copies of the letters from the credit card companies to the thieves, which contained the thieves' address; and we delivered them to the police. Some solace.

Jody Firneno 5 years ago

This has happened to me today. I am so upset, I found they had hacked in my account and stole ALL my emails and contacts and sent out the same bogus letter. They had set my account to forward all mail to this bogus email on yahoo. This is a nightmare, I had to change all my passwords and am still worried they somehow will break into my email again. BEWARE!!!!!!! Thanks for the article and tips.

manthy profile image

manthy 5 years ago from Alabama,USA

Yeah they got me too, I was a day too late reading this.

sharewhatuknow profile image

sharewhatuknow 5 years ago from Western Washington

Wow, great article and very informative. Fortunately for me I am aware of this scam, but many others are not.

And, I greatly advise using password generators.

krishani 5 years ago

hello how to make a e.mail account . please help me

Susan 5 years ago

This just happened to me today. The advise about how the email was being forwarded was perfect for saving my email account. Unfortunately, they wiped out all my old emails and my contacts. This is very organized! FYI, my account is with

BMG 5 years ago

Why would anyone forward the messages to a fake e-mail address? It doesn't make sense, it means that the criminal won't actually get any response?

Orly 4 years ago

This just happened to me, exactly as described in the article.

Here is the email:


I'm writing this with tears in my eyes,my family and I came down here to Cordoba/Spain for a short vacation unfortunately we were robbed at the park of the hotel where we stayed,all cash,credit card and cell were all stolen from us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us

We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in few hrs from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills the amount needed now is just €2,600Euro..I am so confused right now and thank God we weren't injured because we complied immediately.

Waiting to hear from you.


onlinecashdigest profile image

onlinecashdigest 4 years ago from Manila, Philippines

The safest thing to do here is ...............IGNORE THE EMAIL!

xprofilejobs 4 years ago



tivetiepumb 3 years ago

My spouse and i accustomed to obtain at the top of life yet lately I have built up any level of resistance.

Geaniaadottog 3 years ago

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my account has been taken over by someone. they changed the phone# and email verification. Google wont give it back because i cant prove it belongs to me BS. 19 months ago

They also made their self administrator of my Microsoft accounts. Iget redirected to several places always. My accounts disappear passwords changed

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