I'm asked daily to reset lost passwords, recover hacked email accounts or retrieve lost information in them. Here's my answer.
- Someone hacked my Hotmail account and changed my password and my secret question. I have emailed customer service for help but I haven’t gotten an answer. Can you get it back for me?
- Someone has hacked my email address and has changed my password, my personal information and my secret question. I can’t log into my own email account! Please help me recover my password. The id that has been hacked is *****. Please rescue me.
- I am not able to log into my Yahoo account that I’ve been using for the past 10 years. I clicked on the “forgot password” link and filled in all the details. It’s asking me for answer to my secret question – “who’s my friend?” How would I remember who would it be 10 years ago? Please reply and save a soul. I have very important information in my mails.
- I’ve forgotten my password and the answer to my secret question. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can you send my password to *****@*****.com?
There is nothing I can do. I have no way to help you.
Here is what you can do…
Somehow for whatever reason you’ve forgotten the password, the answer to your secret question and never set up, or no longer have access to the alternate email address associated with the account. Or your account has been hacked and your password, secret answer and alternate email address have all been changed.
I cannot help you.
Contact your email service provider and tell them what is happening. They should have some way of identifying you, after which they should be able to reset your password. This is typically the approach for pay services – they may verify your identity with your credit card number or some other piece of information they collected at the time you signed up.
Unfortunately, this almost never works for free accounts. Why? Because these accounts are free, there’s almost no customer support. You get what you pay for.
Let me be even clearer about that:
You absolutely can and should try contacting customer service for the email service you are using – they are the only ones who could help you. But my experience is that they rarely do.
Learn from your mistake.
If you lose access to your account and cannot recover it, you’ll want to set up a new account. Learn from this.
- Choose good passwords that you will remember. It’s tough, given the number of accounts and passwords we all need to remember, but the fact is choosing a hard-to-guess password, and changing it regularly are important steps you can take to avoid someone stealing your account.
- Don’t share your password with anyone. A number of the account hacks I hear about are the result of trusting someone you shouldn’t have.
- Remember your secret answer. I’m kind of surprised I even have to say this, but when you create an account that asks you for a secret question and answer, don’t treat it lightly. It doesn’t have to be true … just make sure it’s something you’ll remember in a year or two or ten when (not if) you have a problem.
- Set up an alternate email address. This is where password reminders would get emailed to. And remember that if you lose access to your alternate email address, you need to change it in any accounts that reference it.
- Don’t use “remember me” when logging in. At least, don’t use it unless you’re positive it’s safe. If someone else walks up to the computer (be it in an internet cafe, or in your bedroom or office) and “remember me” is selected … they can now login as you without knowing your password. And then they can change your password and everything else, locking you out of your own account.
And, perhaps most important of all:
- Don’t use free email accounts for anything important.
It’s just not worth it. If your free email account, and all the information in it went away tomorrow would that be a problem for you? If so … move. Now.
And, I’m sorry to have to say it again, but based on the number of questions I keep getting, I have to:
I cannot recover your password
or your account. I cannot email you your password.