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How to set up an email account and other email essentials

Email is electronic mail. It's a free and easy way to stay in touch with family and friends. You'll need an email account to access online services, shop or bank online, set up a social media account, and sign up to email newsletters.

How do I set up an email account?

You can set up an email account using one of the many popular services, such as Google Mail (commonly known as Gmail), Outlook and Yahoo.

Each email service asks for slightly different information from you in order to set up your account, but you usually have to complete an online form with:

  • your full name
  • your choice of email address – this has to be unique, so you might have to try a few times to come up with one that isn’t already in use, such as '' instead of ''.
  • your choice of password – click here to find out more about how to choose a strong password.
  • personal information such as your date of birth and gender
  • your phone number – this may be used to verify your account (which means that your email provider sends you a code over text message which you then enter on your email provider's website).

When you register with your internet service provider (such as BT or Sky), they'll often provide you with an email account. Be aware though that if you decide to change internet providers, they may charge you to keep access to your email account. Choosing an email service that's not linked with your internet provider may allow you more flexibility.

You can also download email apps to access your emails easily on your smartphone or tablet. If you have an Android phone, the Gmail app will be automatically downloaded to your phone. Click here to find out more about downloading apps.

How do I send emails to friends and family?

Once you've set up your email account and signed in, you can start sending emails. Follow these steps:

  1. Click on 'compose', 'new email' or 'new message'.
  2. Type the email address of the person you want to talk to next to the box marked 'to' at the top.
  3. Below this, type a few words in the 'subject' box. The subject is a short summary or title of what your email is about, for example 'holiday update' or 'coffee on Sunday'. 
  4. Type your main email message in the largest box.
  5. Clicking on the paperclip icon will allow you to choose photos or documents from your computer to attach to the message.
  6. Once you're finished, click 'send' to send your email.

Once you've sent an email to someone once, you won't have to remember their full email address next time – it will be suggested once you start typing it.

How do I know if I have received an email?

To check if you've received any new emails, follow these steps:

  1. Go to your email provider by searching in your internet browser, such as Google, or by using the app on your smartphone or tablet.
  2. Sign in to your account using your email address and password.
  3. The number of unread emails you have will be shown next to where it says 'inbox' on the left. If there isn't a number there, then you don't have any unread emails.
  4. In your inbox, unread emails will be in bold text (compared to the emails that you've already read).
  5. Click on an email to open it.
  6. If you want to respond, click on the symbol that looks like an arrow pointing to the left. Usually, it says 'reply' next to this arrow. Clicking here will create a new message for you to write and send.

If you access your email through an app on your smartphone or tablet, you'll receive a notification. For emails, this is usually an envelope symbol and appears on the screen along with details of the email. Click on the notification to open the email and respond.

What email scams should I be aware of?

Unfortunately, there are scammers and fraudsters who will use email to contact you and try and trick you out of money or get hold of your personal or financial information. Here are some commons scams to be aware of:

  • Scammers can create fake websites that look official requesting you to provide personal or financial information. You might receive an email claiming to be from an organisation, like a bank, with a link to one of these fake websites. These are known as 'phishing emails'.
  • Some emails, known as 'spam' or 'junk', have a link or file attached for you to click on or open. Opening these links or downloading the files may be harmful to your device.
  • Emails may trick you into thinking you've won a lottery or prize.
  • Someone might email you pretending to be someone you know who has been stranded somewhere and needs money.
  • Emails may even come from an email address that you recognise, such as a friend or family member. This can happen when someone's account is 'hacked'. If you receive something and it seems suspicious or out of character, give the person a ring to see if they sent it.
  • A phishing email claiming to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) offering you a tax refund if you enter your details. The real HMRC would never email to give you a tax refund.

If you receive a suspicious email, don't reply with your details or open any links or documents. Delete the email straight away and report it as spam through your email provider. If the email claims to be from an organisation, phone them directly using the phone number found on their official website and ask them.

Click here to find out more about online scams and how to stay safe online

How to spot a scam email

Scam emails can look genuine and appear to be from official places like a bank or TV Licensing, but you can often tell it’s a scam. Look out for:

  • errors in the spelling or grammar, or an unusual style of writing.
  • requests for personal information, such as your username, full password or bank details – genuine organisations will never ask for this information like this over email.
  • a sense of urgency, threatening that unless you act now, a deal will expire or your account closed.

You can see an example of a scam TV license email here.

What should I do if I think something is a scam?

  • Ignore attachments and links in emails. Don't open any attachments to an email unless you know they're from someone you know and trust, and that they definitely sent the email. Don't click on links within emails that claim to direct you to your bank, utility company or HMRC. Always search for the website yourself instead.
  • Don't reply. Never reply to scam emails, even to say 'No'. This will let the scammer know that your email address is active, and they'll send you more emails.
  • Think twice before sharing any details. Organisations shouldn't contact you out of the blue asking for your full password or for financial information. Never be pressured into sharing personal or financial details.
  • Double-check. If you get an unexpected request for payment from someone claiming to be a trusted company, look up their phone number and give them a call to check.
  • Stay virus-free. Make sure you have anti-virus software installed on your computer to protect it from viruses.
  • Mark emails as spam: Mark the email as spam through your email provider. This will delete the email and will stop emails from that address from entering your inbox in the future.
  • Report and delete. Report scam emails to , then make sure you delete the email.

Contact Action Fraud

If you’re worried something might be a scam, or think you’ve been scammed, contact the police and then Action Fraud. The information you give Action Fraud can help them find the scammer.

How do I mark emails as spam?

You can mark suspicious emails as 'spam' or 'junk' through your email provider. This removes them from your inbox and can stop you from receiving emails from that sender again. However, this alone won't report these emails to Action Fraud – you have to do this separately. .

  1. Select the email in your inbox. How you do this varies depending on your email provider, but usually, you click the box to the left of the sender (so that a 'tick' symbol appears). 
  2. Click on the symbol in the bar above which lets you report the email – again, what symbol this is varies depending on your email provider but it may be a no-entry sign, a shield or an exclamation mark, with wording such as 'report spam' or 'junk'.
  3. Your email account will also have a spam or junk folder. Some emails may go straight into that folder, so you don't need to worry about marking those as spam. It's a good idea to check your spam and junk folders regularly, as sometimes important emails can go there by mistake. 

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Last updated: Apr 08 2024

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