Improve Your Online Security Using An Individual Email Address

Email addresses are like opinions—nearly everyone has one. It is the most public piece of personal information you have besides your name. But what you may not know about your email address could hurt you. Your email may not seem like personally identifiable information at first blush, and for good reason. It is a requirement of everyday life. Asked for a list of sensitive personal information, I feel pretty certain that most people wouldn’t think of their email address right away. It’s not like an IRD number, or even your date of birth. However, to an identity thief, your email address is one of the pathways into your financial life.

More and more regulators and legislators are codifying email addresses as sensitive personal information and adding it to the definition of PII (Personal Identifiable Information) in laws and regulations for this reason. In the wrong hands, an email address can be a big problem.

man holding tablets over face outside

It's the Command Centre for your online life

If a thief gets control of your email account, you are vulnerable to attack elsewhere. Many passwords reset via email, so even if you use a separate, long and strong password on, for instance, your bank account, a thief with access to your email can reset it. Many sites offer the choice between password reset via email or a mobile phone. Choose the latter for greater security.

It's an easy way to speak directly to you

Email is the vehicle of choice for phishers and spearphishers. That’s why so much effort on the part of fraudsters has gone into designing email messages that look like the real thing. Gone are the days of bad graphics, bad grammar and spelling that would put a 5-year-old to shame. Cyber scammers use email because it works. Offering a deal that is too good to be true; scaring the daylights out of the email recipient about an existing account, or a new account or suspicious activity; threatening big penalties for unpaid tax bills -- the triggers are too many to list.

Providing personal information via email or entering sensitive personal information on a website designed to look like a financial or government institution can be a sort of Pavlovian response for many people. If you fall for the trap, you will become an unwitting co-conspirator in the theft of your own identity.

It contains other sensitive information

Your email address often contains your name; your name and a number that means something to you or others who know you; or your name in combination with the name of the company where you work. Even if it doesn’t contain your name, it may include the year you were born, the college you attended or your favourite band. All of that information becomes tiny breadcrumbs that can be used by scammers to piece together passwords, answer security questions or even just help the thieves appear like they know who you are so they can get you to send cash or give up even more sensitive information.

It often doubles as a user ID

Take a moment to think about the number of websites that either prompt you to use your email address in the user ID box or even pre-populate the user ID box with your email address. The theory is that consumers don’t want to be bothered to come up with different user ID for their email, financial services and social networking sites. Using an email address makes it really simple by keeping things uniform and easy.

But what’s convenient for you is just as convenient for scammers. Hackers and identity thieves can also get into your accounts faster if you use an email address as your user ID, and it’s the first thing they try. Consider the fact that it places them 50 percent down the road toward gaining access to your financial life.

See What's My Password

Scammers can use it as 'proof' they're legitimate

One of the many ways that identity thieves work is by running a con, often when they have a few pieces of information, like a phone number and email address and home address, and want to parlay that into more useable data points. This typically involves the deft deployment of known facts to create the illusion of access in the hope of getting still more.

How it works: If a crook has your email address, they can usually cobble together other facts about you, like your name, where you live, where your kids go to school—any information that is online and contains both your email address and an implicit statement of fact about you: e.g,. your email on a PTA meeting list. A scammer can then call you up and use those facts to "prove" they know you in an attempt to get access to your financial accounts or other information they need to steal your identity. Never provide information to someone who contacts you. Ask for the name of the organisation that contacted you, find their number independently and contact them directly.

If you bear in mind that email can get you in trouble, and act accordingly, you can save yourself a lot of grief. Sharing doesn’t always mean caring. When it comes to your email address, your need to share would be better served by giving money to a charity.

See The Privacy & Security Of Your Data Is Paramount

IN THE NEWS: Yahoo hacking breach hit all accounts, including Xtra

couple looking out to field

Couples Sharing Email Addresses

There are couples who share an email address between them, or even have a single email address for the whole family. In most cases, it seems people do this for one of two reasons:

  1. People tend to see an email account like the family telephone land line, or like a shared bank account.
  2. One person in the couple is “not technology savvy” and it’s just easier for one person to manage the email.

A few thoughts on this:

  • First, an email address is a unique identity in the modern world, not a shared bucket. Email is not like a telephone line or a shared bank account. You might receive a few calls a day on your family phone, but as individuals starts receive many emails per day. The volume of email we all have to manage would seem to make sharing an account non-viable from a simple housekeeping perspective. Trying to decide when your partner has finished a particular message before you delete or archive old messages can be a chore.
  • Secondly, when people write an email, they have a reasonable expectation of reaching an individual on the other end. I’m going to write an email very differently to a couple sharing an address than I would to an individual. If I don’t know in advance that it’s a shared account, that’s not fair to the writer, who naturally assumes that one email equals one person.
  • Thirdly, to share an email account makes it seem like two people talk with the same mouth. When I’m reading a message, I don’t have any clue who’s actually talking unless it’s personally signed at the end (and emails are often not). Again, this is frustrating for the recipient.

"Even my 68-year-old parents, who have now been married for 41 years, have had separate email accounts from that first moment that they screee-crackle-bloop-blooped onto AOL in the early 90's and were introduced to the wonders of the world wide web." - Megan Carpentier

We all have or will have dozens if not hundreds of accounts on systems all over the web today. From Facebook, Instagram, online banking, stores, reading clubs, churches, community organisations, many if not most of these systems tie accounts to UNIQUE email addresses. If two people share an email account, then many systems cannot manage their individual identities. Let’s take the example of a community organisation that tracks things like contact information, family jobs, individual board positions, photographs, etc. It may also be the case that that system sends email to individuals that have certain responsibilities in the organisation.The community organisation can reasonably expect that people who are privileged to see that mail are not sharing those private messages with others. It’s reasonable to expect that each person in that organisation has their own email address.

How to Create Individual Email Accounts

It’s trivially easy for each member of a family to have their own email account, and the basic expectations of privacy that go along with it.

The easiest way is simply to create free accounts at webmail providers like, or similar. Then all you have to do is log the browser into one account or the other.

If you prefer to use email on your ISP’s domain, almost all ISPs let you create lots of email accounts for no additional charge. Just log in to their site and find their Mail Help center. However, you’ll have a much better experience on Gmail than you will on your ISP’s mail system. There really is no good reason to use an email address attached to your ISP. What happens when you switch to another ISP? You don’t want your email to have to change along with it!

You should have Individual Windows User accounts on a shared computer. That way each family member has their own desktop, their own documents, their own bookmarks, their own email, etc. If you’re not doing that already, take the time to give every family member their own login, then set up your mail accounts from within those respective computer logins.

Digital Literacy 
Managing an email account is the cornerstone of basic digital literacy in the modern world. Not to be harsh, but that partner who is “not technologically savvy” needs to at least rise to the level of being able to send and receive email. An adult not being able to do email in 2018 is excluding themselves from the modern world in a way that just doesn’t/can’t work any more. If you want to go all the way off the grid, OK, but if you’re going to live in modern society, you need to be able to do your email, period.

See 10 Things You Have To Know To Be Computer Literate

Should couples SHARE an e-mail address?

    • What about confirmations of ordered gifts at Xmas…?
    • We have separate emails of course. I don't want to have to sort through his emails from his golfing and fishing buddies to get to the ones I'm interested in and I'm sure he doesn't want to sort through my emails from my parents and friends.
    • We have separate emails, but we have the password for each others emails in case there is something we need to get.
    • I personally don't think that the rules should change because you are in cyber space. If your partner got a letter from their old friend or cousin or whoever, and it was addressed specifically to THEM, would you open it? If you did, I think it would be rude and an invasion of their privacy and also an invasion of the sender's privacy. Perhaps the sender had a personal matter to discuss and didn't want anyone else to know about it?
    • Just because two people are a couple, that does not mean they stop being individuals with personal friends that trust and confide in them. Or used to!
    • Once again, there’s basic privacy/politeness. I’m curious – if you share an email account, do you also open one another’s paper mail?

Delegates Need Their Own Email Address Too!

So, you've signed up to LifeLot, and try to add your partner as a delegate using your joint email address...why won't it work??

LifeLot works to secure your data/personal information in several ways. One of the methods used is 256-bit encryption - essentially everything that you store in LifeLot is scrambled up! As per most sites, LifeLot uses your email address as your unique user ID. When you (as a member) log in to view your information, your email address, password and the answer to your secret question act together as a 'key' to decrypt it. This, along with providing a maximum level of security is why LifeLot requires a unique email address for each member and/or delegate.

It's free and easy to create a new email but if you need extra help we are happy to assist you with this. 

Related: Digital | What Is A Delegate | Life Is Made Up Of A Lot | What's My Password

How does it work?


There is nothing more important to us than keeping your data secure. You'll find answers to frequently asked questions here. If you have any questions or concerns regarding security please contact us. For urgent security matters please call us on 09 950 4707.

I've got your back!Why LifeLot is the solution

Often the only time you seem to think about your important documents is when you need them. And, often you can't find them because you either don't have an organised and centralised system for storing your important documents and/or the last time you needed them, you simply tossed it back into the sea of papers in your home office instead of putting it back where it belonged!

There is probably some other stuff that only sits in your head and your family would love to know. LifeLot ensures important information is passed through generations. 


It's simple to set up, free to try, and it can make a world of difference for your family if something happens to you.

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