The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today launched a new safety page on its OnGuardOnline.gov site simply called Hacked Email. The initiative aims to help consumers figure out how to prevent, identify, and fix accounts that have been compromised.

While the page’s title implies this is only for email, the advice specifically mentions social networks as well, Generally speaking, the tips apply to all types of websites, although your inbox is often a great place to start. Here’s the pitch:

You get a flood of messages from friends and family. They’re getting emails from you with seemingly random links, or messages with urgent pleas to wire you money. It looks like your email or social media account might have been taken over. What do you do? For starters, make sure your security protections are up-to-date, reset your password, and warn your friends.

Most people aren’t going to stumble on the site unless they already think they’ve been hacked. To summarize the FTC’s advice, here’s what you should do if you find yourself in such a situation:

  • Make sure your security software is up-to-date and delete malware it finds.
  • Change all your passwords.
  • Check with your email provider or social networking site for information about restoring your account.
  • Check your account settings.
  • Tell your friends.

Of course, everyone should take measures to stop this from happening in the first place. As such, the FTC says you should use unique passwords for important sites like banking and email, safeguard your user names and passwords, turn on two-factor authentication if a service provider offers it, don’t click on links or open attachments from unknown users, only download free software from sites you know and trust, and when using a public computer, log out of all accounts as well as don’t let browsers remember passwords.

Got all that? If not, bookmark the FTC’s page, email it to yourself, or even print it out.

Top Image Credit: McKenna P