Your last-ditch option, why it might not work, and what to do/what not to do next.
You have a Google or Gmail account you can’t sign into. You’ve forgotten the password, or the password’s not working.
On top of that, the recovery information — a phone number to receive a code by text, or an alternate email address to receive a code by email — are also not working. Perhaps you never set them up or no longer have access to the phone number or email address.
There’s one last straw to grasp at.
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Lost Gmail account recovery
Go here: https://go.askleo.com/grecovery to access the Google Account recovery process. Carefully and completely answer all the questions you can. If you provide enough information, Google will let you back in to your account. If you can’t, the account may be lost forever.
Google’s account recovery process
Google has a recovery process it apparently doesn’t always suggest when you’ve exhausted your other, normal options.
At this writing, that should take you to https://accounts.google.com/signin/recovery, but Google’s been known to change that link. I’ll keep the link above up to date when I hear of changes.
Important: Google may not display all the steps below for all accounts, and may display others. The important thing is to carefully and completely provide as much information as you possibly can.
Google will first ask you to enter the email address you’re having difficulty with.
If you forgot the email address, click on Forgot email? (above).
You must enter a phone number or recovery email address associated with the account. If you do not have one, you can’t proceed. Google may ask you additional questions. Assuming you can answer them all correctly, it will show you the email address of your account.
Proceeding with the more common case where you know the email address, click Next.
If you remember any password you’ve used on this account in the past, enter it here. The more recent, the better.
If a hacker has changed your password, for example, use the password you believe is the most current.
If you don’t recall any passwords previously used on the account, click Try another way.
As shown, Google will send an email with a verification code to your alternate email address.
If you no longer have access to that email address or can’t decipher what email address it might be, click Try another way.If you reach this step — “Google needs more info to verify it’s you” — you’ve exhausted all options available.
Click Try again to start over.
Try your best to answer as many of the questions as you can. Using a device where you’ve signed in before can sometimes help, either by the browser auto-remembering your sign-in state, or perhaps1 by Google using information stored in cookies as additional clues to your identity.
Google also has a list of tips to complete account recovery steps you should review at this point to ensure you’ve exhausted all possible recovery options.
Why it might not work
This process might not work. If that’s the case, you’re out of luck. You cannot recover your account, and anything in it is lost forever.
This usually happens because you never set up account recovery information or you didn’t keep it up to date. In a surprising number of cases, folks even forget or lose fundamental account information like email address and passwords, including past passwords.
Naturally, Google allows only those authorized to access the account into the account. If you cannot prove, through all these methods, that you are that person, then Google can’t tell you apart from a hacker trying to break in. They must deny access.
What you should do next
This is not the answer you want to hear, but it’s an important one.
If you cannot recover your account, learn from the experience. Take all the steps necessary to secure your replacement or other accounts properly.
More than anything else, that means configuring recovery information and keeping it up to date as you change phone numbers or move through other email accounts.
What you should never do
Never “hire” a hacker.
Particularly on my YouTube channel, but potentially here in the comments below as well, you’ll see comments from individuals claiming to “thank” an individual for recovering their account. They’ll include contact information of some sort, generally an Instagram, WhatsApp or other account ID.
Lies. They’re all lies. I try to block them as I can, but it’s a game of whack-a-mole, so some almost always make it through.
So-called hackers have no additional access, tools, or techniques. Even if they were to try, they couldn’t do anything you are I couldn’t try ourselves.
But they don’t try. They just take your money and disappear.
Recover your account, if you can, of course. If you’ve read this far, though, you’re probably in the unsuccessful camp. I’m sorry, I really am. But there’s nothing to be done other than learn from the experience and improve your security moving forward.
I can help you with that. Subscribe to Confident Computing, my weekly newsletter with tips on how to stay safe and ever lose your account again. Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.
Footnotes & References
1: Google is intentionally obscure about exactly what information it uses to recover accounts. If they weren’t, hackers could abuse that knowledge to gain access to accounts they should not.