What To Do if Your Email Was Found on the Dark Web

Finding out that your email is circulating the dark web can be alarming (and rightfully so), so we'll show you how to recover from email theft and stop it from happening again.
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The dark web is an unregulated group of deep web marketplaces, websites, and forums. As such, it is a fertile environment for illegal activity. Having your private information circulating in this place is as disturbing as it is dangerous.

A stolen email can result in data leaks, blackmail, phishing scams, financial fraud, and even identity theft. Staying vigilant and using good identity protection tools is a must nowadays.

Keep reading to learn how to safeguard your online privacy and what to do if you find your email on the dark web.

In this article
How can your email end up on the dark web?
How to check if your email is on the dark web
You found your email on the dark web: What’s next?
How to stop your email from leaking to the dark web
What to do if your email was found on the dark web FAQ
Bottom line

How can your email end up on the dark web?

Your private info can end up on the dark web in a number of ways. Here are the most common scenarios.

  • Data breaches: Companies have to log some private information to provide their services. For example, your bank needs your financial data to conduct business with you. If hackers breach their servers, they can steal client information. Data breaches can reveal a lot of data, including real names, passwords, emails, and more.
  • Data leaks: Service providers can also leak your data due to errors or security flaws on their platform. Misconfigured databases and software vulnerabilities could make your email address publicly available.
  • Companies sharing your private data: Service providers can also willingly share or sell your data to third parties. For example, in the 2010s, Facebook shared the personal data of millions of its users for political advertising. In 2022, they agreed to pay a $725 million settlement to a resulting class-action lawsuit.
  • Publicly available info: Criminals could also get your email address from publicly accessible sources. They often use web scraping tools to collect emails from websites, public records, social media accounts, online directories, etc.
  • Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks: Criminals can monitor your traffic on unsecured networks. If you're using your email, they can intercept data packets between your device and the email server. If you can't avoid public Wi-Fi, we recommend using a good VPN like NordVPN or Surfshark to encrypt your traffic.

How to check if your email is on the dark web

Scouring the dark web for a specific piece of sensitive information is extremely difficult. Fortunately, numerous tools can scan the dark web for you. With that in mind, there are three common ways to check if your sensitive data is circulating there.

Use a dark web scanner

As the name suggests, this tool scans the dark web for your info and alerts you if it finds any. HaveIBeenPwnd and Mozilla Monitor are the most popular options for checking data breaches. We also recommend installing a good identity protection program like Aura.

Sign up for 24/7 dark web monitoring

With scanners, you have to initiate the checks manually. Dark web monitoring apps, on the other hand, scan the dark web continuously in real-time. This uninterrupted surveillance can give you more time to respond to potential breaches. Most of these apps also provide a real-time credit monitoring service for extra security.

In addition to email leaks, dark web monitoring can look for stolen login details, social security numbers, banking info, and other private info.

Wait for company notifications

In the U.S., companies have to notify you about data breaches. However, companies can take days or months to disclose this fact to the public. They’ll usually wait until they’ve solved the vulnerability that allowed the breach. By then, the hackers have probably already sold stolen data on the dark web. Even though it’s good to know that companies have this obligation, we don’t recommend relying on them in these matters.

You found your email on the dark web: What’s next?

It’s essential to keep your calm and act quickly in these situations. Hopefully, the criminals only have your email address without the login details. We recommend thinking of data breaches as races against hackers—they’re trying to take over your online accounts, and you want to keep them out. The quicker you act, the higher the chances of preventing these takeovers.

Here’s what to do the moment you find your email on the dark web.

Change your password

Changing your login details is essential, especially if they were leaked with your email address. We recommend creating a strong password to prevent brute force attacks. An ideal password should contain uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

Change passwords on other accounts

A data breach is a wake-up call to change passwords on all important accounts, especially if you’ve reused them. If a hacker cracks one password, they also try to use it on your other accounts. Creating unique passwords will help you avoid a chain of breaches in these scenarios.

Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)

Even if a hacker has the right password, 2FA will make an account breach much more difficult. 2FA sends a PIN code to your phone or authenticator app for each login attempt. You can access the account in question only after entering this code.

Review your financial accounts and credit reports

As an extra precaution, we recommend verifying your banking transactions and checking your credit report for suspicious activity.

Run a malware scan

Antivirus programs will scan every file on your device for malware. They can also protect you against phishing attacks and other online threats. We recommend boosting your online security with renowned providers like TotalAV and McAfee.

How to stop your email from leaking to the dark web

You can adopt plenty of good security habits to minimize the risk of data leaks. Here’s how to protect yourself.

  • Use a password manager: A password manager helps you create strong passwords and save all login credentials in one place.
  • Install a VPN: The best VPNs for the dark web will encrypt your online traffic and even mask your IP address. We especially recommend using a VPN on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. Even if hackers manage to intercept your traffic, they won’t see anything worthwhile due to heavy encryption.
  • Learn to recognize scams: Spotting the common red flags quickly will help you avoid scams and attacks.
  • Set up an email alias: Create an anonymous email and set it up to forward messages to your primary account. Your alias email will act as a decoy, thus protecting your actual account. Even if hackers gain access to the anonymous email, they’ll find no personal data to steal.
  • Use an identity protection program: These programs can monitor the dark web for your personal information, detect early signs of identity theft, and help you recover.

What are the best identity protection programs?

Investing in an identity theft protection program can help you keep track of your sensitive data on the dark web. It can also alert you about potential identity theft. Some of the best identity protection programs available include:

  • Aura Identity Theft Protection: Aura is a well-rounded identity protection package. It offers more features than we can count, including identity theft insurance, monitoring of your credit, criminal record, identity, accounts, dark web, and more.

    Get Aura | Read Aura Identity Theft Protection Review
  • Norton LifeLock: Norton LifeLock can provide up to $3 million in insurance coverage. It also has several premium monitoring features, including the dark web, home title, and social media.

    Get Norton LifeLock | Read Norton LifeLock Review
  • IDShield by LegalShield: IDShield is an excellent identity protection program with robust identity restoration services. It also provides a dedicated, licensed private investigator if fraud happens.

    Get IDShield | Read IDShield by LegalShield Review

What to do if your email was found on the dark web FAQ


Can I remove my email from the dark web?

You can't remove your email from the dark web. The best thing you can do is protect it from being hacked in the first place by using a strong password and enabling 2FA.


Should I worry if my email is on the dark web?

It can be concerning if your email is on the dark web. If this happens to you, you should change your password and ensure it's complex and hard to guess. You'll also want to turn on 2FA to provide an additional barrier to accessing your email. Additional precautions include monitoring your email and financial accounts for unusual activity.


Should I delete my email if it was hacked?

You could delete your email if you prefer, but recovering your email account is still possible. The first step is to change the password and enable 2FA. You can do this with your email provider's account recovery options.

Once you have control of your account, you should alert your contacts that you've been hacked and ask them not to open suspicious emails from you. You should also check your email settings to make sure that they aren't forwarding your emails to a different address.


Can I change my email address?

You can't change your current email address. If you would like a different one, you need to set up a new account.


How did my info get on the dark web?

Hackers are usually responsible for getting your information on the dark web. They may have hacked one of the services you use and gotten your data that way. Another way is that they installed malware on your device or conducted a cyberattack to steal your information directly.


How do I know if my email is on the dark web?

You can use dark web scanners to look for your email address on the dark web. Some popular sites include HaveIBeenPwnd and Mozilla Monitor. They check if your email was part of a data breach. We also recommend using a premium identity protection service like Aura.

Bottom line

It's worrying to find out your personal information is on the dark web and out of your control. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. The best thing you can do is ensure your email account has a strong and unique password. Enabling 2FA can provide another layer of security against unauthorized access.

Beyond keeping your email account safe, you should also consider securing your data with good identity protection tools. They can monitor the dark web for your data, spot early signs of theft, and help you recover from fraudulent activity.

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Author Details
Sara J. Nguyen is a freelance writer specializing in cybersecurity. She aims to help people protect their data while enjoying technology. She has written about online privacy and tech for over 5 years for several organizations. When she's not writing about the latest cybersecurity trends, you can find her on LinkedIn.