Emails are one of the easiest ways to keep in touch with friends, but email addresses and the security of your account also pose risks for your personal safety.
An email address is often a necessity when setting up a new program or app, as it is used to login.
There are a number of ways to set up an email account, for example:
- Use the email provided by your ISP when you set up your internet account.
- Buy an email address and use your personal or business domain name as part of the email address.
- Set up a web-based email account.
Options for setting up email addresses
Your own domain name
If you want an email address with your own domain name, then you will need to research the annual pricing plans. The cost of running and storing emails varies with the provider. Some providers include multiple email addresses for no extra charge and some offer 24-hour support. Make sure they have contact phone numbers or good customer support.
Some domain name emails do not have an associated webmail service. If you choose one of these you will have to configure, download and install a program like Microsoft Outlook or use an app on your phone to read your email on-the-go.
There are many free email programs online, including Gmail, Yahoo mail and Outlook, which includes a free web-based version.
Most free email providers are browser-based so you can access your email from any device, anywhere in the world — an obvious advantage when travelling or if you want to be able to access your email on multiple devices. They also have very easy to use interfaces, making it easy to find new and old messages.
Free web-based email is funded through advertising, so be prepared for banner and other advertising when you read your email.
Storage space for free web-based email accounts varies with the provider, so it is worth checking how much space you will need when you are deciding which to use.
How can you keep your email secure?
Here are some steps you can follow
Select your provider
Use a recognised or well-known email provider. The largest and well-known companies have backup systems, high security, built-in spam and junk mail features and will run on any device. Smaller, unknown providers run the risk of going out of business, having spam attacks or being hacked due to less funding for, or focus on, security. If you are unsure about an email provider, read the reviews about it.
Choose your user name
Choose a user name that is general but sensible — you may need to use this for job applications, for example. If you are worried about being easily identified, then choose one that does not contain your real name. You can also set up a separate ‘burner’ email, or an email address that does not identify you if you need to protect your privacy or personal information.
Use a secure password
Have a strong and secure password and do not share it with anyone. Having a strong password that you change regularly and is not easy to guess is the best way to protect your account from hackers. Always change your password if you think your account has been compromised in any way. See our advice on setting strong passwords.
Be wary of unsolicited emails — if you do not know who they are from, they are probably spam.
Don't click on suspicious links or attachments, even if they look like they have been sent to you by a friend. Ask yourself, ‘Is this something my friend would send me? Does it sound like them?' If in doubt, give your friend a call or send a new email just to check. Otherwise — delete the email.
Sign out of email services once you have finished checking them.
See our advice on securing your accounts and devices, in cases of domestic and family violence.