Hi Dave, I’ve got two email accounts but someone changed my password and security question. Is it possible to recover my emails accounts at all? Many thanks.
Realistically, if that’s what happened, probably not. You can try contacting your email service provider, and I’ll show you how to do that in a minute, but it’s important to understand that they have an almost impossible job ensuring that it’s your account that you’re trying to recover.
Think of it this way: what if you were trying to grab my Gmail account and your name was Daniel Taylor-Smythe. My account is “dtaylor” and you send the Google team a copy of your driver’s license, copy of your credit card, and even have a guess at a few message I have in the mailbox because you happened to sit behind me in a café one afternoon. I mean, hey, the “d” stands for Daniel” and “taylor” is part of your name. Logical enough. But it’s not your account. You can see the problem.
Look at some of the major sites and you’ll see they’re well aware of the problem too, especially with the frequency of phishing attacks and ease of mocking up a login page for a service like AOL or Hotmail…
In fact, Google has a specific “Account Recovery Process” you can use if you’ve lost access to your Gmail account, one that you can start here: Gmail Account Recovery Process. The first step they want you to do, however, is reset your password.
If that doesn’t work, there’s a form you can fill out that includes the following information that you should be able to guess at but someone else will have a hard time ascertaining:
Note, by the way, this means that Google stores your earlier passwords as well as the current one. Hmm… that’s interesting….
America Online, meanwhile, seems to have a less sophisticated system, but it does have some sort of recovery system:
Meanwhile, Yahoo has a “compromised account” option you can get to from here: forgot Yahoo account credentials. It gets you to secret questions, etc:
Problem is, if someone’s changed your secret questions, well, you’re kinda hosed:
Maybe Yahoo is smart enough that when you get to this point in the recovery process it only asks questions that you’ve set for months or years, not things that have been specified or changed in the last 30 days? I don’t know it works so I can’t say for sure…
One more. Let’s have a look at [Windows Live] Hotmail:
Again, it’s the “password reset” option, but if your backup email address has been changed, I think you’re out of luck, just as you are with America Online.
This is exactly why you should stop reading this article and do this:
- Change to a more secure password (digits, upper and lower case, punctuation, etc)
- Add security questions if you haven’t specified them
- Add a backup mobile number if available (Facebook uses this, for example) so you can have a reset password texted to you
- Become way more suspicious of emails asking you to verify your account, update your profile or settings, or check for new messages
It stinks, but at the end of the day if you lose your account credentials to someone who knows what they’re doing, they’ll change just about everything they can as soon as they possibly can, so that within minutes you’re completely locked out.