The days are getting longer and warmer, which somehow sparks that annual tradition we’ll call ‘Spring Cleaning.’ While you may think of dusty garages and closets full of old clothes, you should also make sure your email is on the list.

Think about what’s in your email inbox right now. In all likelihood, there is information about your personal life, family, financial information, things you bought, information related to filing your taxes, and more. Bad guys could easily find out where you have accounts and do business. That could be the treasure map they follow to identify weaknesses in your personal security and target you for theft or fraud.

And that doesn’t include what’s still in your folder of deleted items.

To help keep your email from being used against you by bad guys, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Understand the Risk: By simply recognizing the risk your email can pose, you’ll be more vigilant going forward. That means making comprehensive email clean-up a normal activity, not just something you do every once in a while.
  • Delete it Twice: Deleting an email doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone. On most email platforms, that just means it’s sent to a ‘trash’ or ‘deleted items’ folder. Once you click delete, open the ‘trash’ or ‘deleted items’ folder and empty that out to make sure it’s gone.
  • Don’t Forget Your Spam: Your spam filter is designed to catch less desirable mass emails, and it puts them in a special folder. Often you don’t see these emails unless you open the folder. Don’t let it be “out of sight, out of mind.” Fraudsters could use these clues as well. In addition, it’s not uncommon for the filter to catch emails with important information.
  • Search for Stragglers: Once you’ve cleaned out email folders, use the ‘search’ tool to make sure you didn’t miss something. Search your folders for things like your date of birth, identification numbers, SSN, passwords and other key data fraudsters might want. If you find any, delete the email!

You can also do things, like “opt out” of marketing email by removing your address from their distribution list or block email from certain senders, so you don’t even get the messages.

Email is such a normal part of life that the wealth of information is easily overlooked. By making email clean-up a regular ritual, you can make sure it’s not used against you.