There are two scenarios here. One is that your email has been compromised and is sending out spam and that has to be stopped. Second is that your email address is still secure but someone is sending out spam messages and putting your email address in them as the sender.
The most likely symptom if your email address is being used by spammers is that you will get lots of return failure messages i.e. the message couldn’t be delivered so you get a message back. You can get thousands of these in a day because the mailing lists that the spammers use are frequently very poor quality i.e. lots of dead or non-existent email addresses.
You may also find that people you know are sending you questions or comments about the spam you’re sending out. If you’re lucky these will be polite messages.
1. Your Account Has Been Compromised
However this happened, someone has got your login and password and you must change the password ASAP and make sure the new password is ‘strong’. This means making it a password that no-one could guess and that isn’t in the dictionary.
You should also run an anti-virus check on your computer as soon as you can to ensure there isn’t any malware hiding on your computer.
You should check your email account details to ensure the hacker hasn’t added an alternate email address for example that can be used to get back into your account. Look for any changes that you did not make. If there are answers to secret questions or similar then change these as the spammer may have read and noted them for future access to your account.
If you try to access your email account and find the password no longer works then you can try the ‘I forgot my password’ button on most email login screens or otherwise you will need to contact your email account supplier and report the incident and try to get your account reset to you.
Also, if you have used that same password on other accounts or websites then you should consider changing them ASAP as some hackers will try to gain access to other well-known websites with your password.
2. Spam Messages Are Being Sent With a Fake Sender Name i.e. Yours
This is called ‘spoofing’. By spoofing legitimate addresses, a spammer increases their chances of a victim opening a spam email and clicking on their malicious links. Also it means that any reject messages go back to the original email address not to the spammer.
How did they get hold of my email address?
· The spammers have most likely bought a list of email addresses from another spammer.
· There may be a virus or ‘Trojan’ on your computer that has passed your email address list to the spammer.
You cannot stop your email address being spammed but do think twice before putting your email address publicly on the Internet e.g. on a website or making a public comment or on chat rooms etc.
If your email address has been spoofed then you just have to wait for the reject messages to stop appearing and hope the spammer has moved off your email address.