Accused of sending spam? Use Hotmail? Start with the obvious.

Just been accused of sending out spam? Sadly, it happens a lot. Ok, not to me, but then the theory is I should know what I’m doing (tempting fate).

We’ve just had a laptop in the workshop that proves how easily it happens and how you should never forget the simple solutions. Now the owner of the laptop had been told that she was sending out spam and was able to check step one below. Her usual PC expert had checked step two. But as soon as we knew who her email provider was, we went for step three…

But first, the important question:

Does it matter? My friends will just delete it.

If there is something nasty on your PC that is sending out messages, or someone has access to your email, they could also be sending out your bank, credit card and PayPal details. They could be sending out attachments containing malware infections, or porn. Or worse. They could be sending it to your friends, your colleagues, your boss.

Then there is social engineering – the scams that rely on using you as a trusted friend. Imagine if all your friends received an email saying you were on holiday and had been mugged. You had lost your wallet and your mobile phone – could they please send you some money? They cannot phone you, so they may email to check that it’s a genuine request. But the person carrying out the scam has access to your email, they’ve changed the password and they are pretending to be you.

Sadly, this happens frequently so, yes, it does matter!

Anyway, back to those steps…

1) Make sure you’re not really spamming people

Obvious, I know, but sometimes the best intentioned emails, Facebook updates and tweets can seem perfectly fine to you, but spammy to everyone else.

2) Scan your PC

We’ve said it before, we’ll keep saying it, we highly recommend Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware for this task. The free version is great for cleaning up infected PCs, the paid for version is brilliant at preventing infections and helping you avoid those dodgy, password pinching websites.

3) Change your password

If you have access to a PC that you know is clean, this is the first thing you should do if your email account is sending out spam. It is also why your email password should always be different to all your other passwords and why it is worth changing it regularly.

Your password could have been captured by some malware. But even more likely, it has been collected from another website where you use the same username and password. That site could have been hacked or could have been designed to steal passwords from the offset.

An apple a day doesn’t always keep the doctor away

Just a little warning for your Apple users out there – you are just as likely to fall victim to a spoof or hacked website, so it’s just as important that you change and keep your email passwords unique.

How to change your Hotmail password

1. Click the down arrow next to your email address and select Account

First of all, login to your Hotmail account. In the top, right-hand corner of the screen you will see your email address and a small down-arrow. Click the arrow and select Account from the menu.

In the Account screen, the second block of information is about your Account Security. Your password will be shown as ‘*****’ and to the right there will be a Change link.

2. Click Change in the Account Security section

Finally, enter your new password.

Annoying though it may seem, it’s a good idea to tick that “Make my password expire every 72 days” box.

3. Enter a new password and tick to enable expiry

If you have trouble remembering complex passwords, a long but memorable sentence can be even more effective.

For example, something like “my dog loves grilled sausages” will stick in your head but be very difficult to crack.

If you use Outlook, Windows Live Mail, a mobile phone or some other application to check your mail, next time it tries you will have to enter your new password. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

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Jonathan Gwyer

Jonathan Gwyer first delved into geekery with a ZX81 in 1981 and has been working in IT since 1990.

A Microsoft Certified Professional with many years of large corporate experience and training, he now focuses on helping small businesses make the most of their IT.
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Accused of sending spam? Use Hotmail? Start with the obvious.

by Jonathan Gwyer time to read: 3 min
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