How safe is my email account?

That’s a question we should all ask ourselves because we use email for so many things.

And a hacked email account can open you up to a number of risks, from identity theft to important financial accounts being exposed.

So it’s important to think about guarding your email account from both the outside and the inside.

In order to guard your account from the outside you need to create a strong password and change it on occasion.

Experts say a strong password should contain at least 8 characters. And creating a password with a combination of letters, numbers and special characters makes your account harder to hack.

For example, instead of using your pet’s name because it’s easy to remember, try coming up with a phrase you remember and then using each of the first letters in that phrase - replacing some with numbers and special characters.

So a phrase such as ‘I can’t see the bird in the tall tree’ could become !C$tb!tTt.

Experts also recommend that you use a different strong password for each of your important accounts – such as email and financial – so if one account gets hacked your others will be safe.

Guarding from the inside of your account means being careful about what email you open and the type of information you store.

Never click on links or downloads from an unsolicited email. That’s how fraudsters try to gain access to your computer or personal information.

It’s also important to know that financial institutions, utility companies and government entities will never send you an email asking for your password or other vital information. They also won’t make threats demanding immediate payments via money transfers or prepaid cards.

You should never store vital personal information in your email. That includes information such as financial account numbers, your Social Security number, or account passwords.

Besides keeping your email account safe on both the outside and the inside, experts recommend that you have more than one email account.

You may want to consider having one email account for items like newsletters and contests you might sign up for.

Have another email account for your more official correspondence, such as financial and medical. Make sure this account has its own unique password, different from your other accounts.

And be sure to check your email settings and be aware of what your options are if you lose your password or get hacked so you can recover your account.

Following these recommendations will help keep you and your email protected – inside and out.