Boy, do I get this question a lot. Several times a day, in fact. And it’s
almost always in one of the following forms:
And it’s almost always in regard to a free email or instant messaging
Usually these questions are accompanied with dire pleas because all their
contact information is in the account, or there’s absolutely critical email
that they can’t get to, or some other life, career, or relationship-threatening
I get them over and over again, many times, every day.
There’s usually nothing anyone can do to help, but let’s walk
through the options you do have and how you can prevent the problem
in the first place.
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I’ve written about similar situations before in “
Someone has stolen my email account. What can I do to get it back?”
I’ll reiterate some of the points I made there.
One of the first things I recommend is to call your ISP customer
support immediately. Unfortunately that’s not an
option for free accounts, because as I’ve written about
elsewhere, there’s almost no customer
support available for free accounts. You’re on your own.
Try to reset your password. Usually that’s done by answering a
“secret question”. As you can tell by the examples, by the time people
come here, it’s often because they’ve forgotten the answer to their
secret question. If you’re on a free email service and there’s no customer
support, you’re pretty much screwed at this point.
Let me be extra clear on that point:
If you are paying for the account you’re having problems with, you
should, as I said, immediately contact customer support for
that service. If you’re paying for your account and there’s no
customer support, move your account elsewhere.
Before you abandon your account: do look to see if
others are having problems logging in. For example, the recent
upgrade to MSN Messenger has caused a lot of people problems. Most
often these problems are temporary, and resolve themselves after a
while. But once again, with the free services, you’re getting what you
paid for, and there may be no official communication relating to
So how do you prevent this from happening in the future?
And as always, scan for viruses and spyware regularly.
And finally, and again to be clear:
If you’ve lost your password, you don’t remember your secret
question, and your service has no customer support – you’re done. Go
create a new account somewhere and hopefully learn from the