How to set up an intruder alarm on your email account

Thu Mar 6, 2008 10:26PM EST

This may or may not come as a shocker, but according to a recent FTC survey on identity theft, 16 percent of the victims said their information was stolen by people they knew, which included friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers. This is very important because it serves as a reminder that we need to take extra precautions whether we're at home or at work. It's probably a good idea to disable cookies, so you don't save login and password information of your accounts, and you should never keep sensitive information where thieves can easily find it.

I've gotten several emails from readers asking me how they can find out if someone has accessed their personal email account, so I thought I'd point you to an excellent post written by PCWorld's Erik Larkin on how to set a hacker alarm on your web mail box. This is a good way to find out if anyone besides you is logging into your email account.

Here's the gist:

1. Open an account with, and use a disposable e-mail address to complete the registration process.
2. You'll receive an email from OneStat with an attached file. Save the file, note the account number, and then delete the email.
3. Rename the file with a name that would catch a hacker's eye like "AccountPasswords." Save the .txt file as an .htm file so it opens up in a web browser.
4. Send an email with the .htm file to the account you want to monitor. Use a subject title that is eye catching.
5. Wait for the hacker to take the bait. If the attachment is opened by anyone else but you, the hit counter will record their IP address.

Hackers are very clever, so you want to change your password frequently to something that's a little harder to crack.