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I Know My Password is Right, But I Can’t Sign In. What Do I Do?

Hi, my password has been the same for the last 10 years and suddenly I get a message that says password incorrect, what the hell? After a few attempts, it blocked all attempts and the question it asks is not what I filled in when I signed up. It asks me for my first dog’s name and I know that I did not fill that in. What do I do, do I just go to Gmail as most of my friends did when Hotmail started with their nonsense?!

I hear this one frequently: “I know my password is correct.” And yet it doesn’t work.

This isn’t “nonsense” at all. What you think is your password isn’t your password.

It’s pretty clear what’s happened, so I’ll refer you to a number of my previous articles that might apply.

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If you’re absolutely certain you’re entering the right password and username and your password still is not accepted, then it’s no longer the correct password. Somehow the password was changed — most likely by someone else. You need to treat it as a hacked account and attempt to regain access. After that, you need to take steps to secure your account to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

First, the obvious

Carefully typing your password Please don’t be offended, but take the time to make certain that you’re actually typing in the password you think you are. Perhaps type it into Notepad so you can see it, and then copy/paste it into the password field of the site to which you’re attempting to sign in.

CAPS LOCK is your enemy, and it’s common to hear back from people who are somewhat embarrassed that it was the problem.

Also, please confirm that you’re typing the username or email address in properly. Your correct password will not be the correct password for some other (or non-existent) account.

It’s (probably) a hack

The most likely scenario is that your account has been hacked.

Someone guessed or otherwise got your password. Having done so, they changed not only your password, but also the recovery information — like your first dog’s name — associated with your account.

The password you’re convinced is correct is no longer the password to your account.

Hotmail (or Outlook.com, these days) is doing exactly the right thing: it’s telling you your password is incorrect because your password is incorrect.

What to do next

Your account is no longer your account. Your next step is to attempt to recover it. Email Hacked? 7 Things You Need to Do NOW covers the steps you need to take as soon as possible.

One of the more important points from that article is reiterated in Is Changing My Password Enough? The answer is no. Particularly since you’ve apparently had your recovery information changed, if you do regain access to your account you’ll want to review absolutely everything about it.

While I don’t have high hopes, if you’re having trouble, you can try reaching out to Microsoft’s Outlook.com customer service. How Do I Contact Outlook.com Customer Service? discusses your options.

And, for the record, I cannot help you directly. Would You Please Recover My Password? My Account Has Been Hacked or I’ve Forgotten It explains why, and reiterates what you need to do instead.

Prevention

Once you’ve either recovered your account or created a new one, you’ll want to focus on keeping this from happening again.

12 Steps to Keep from Getting Your Account Hacked has an important and complete list of steps you need to take to prevent account loss.

Internet Safety: 7 Steps to Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet includes a more global list of steps to take to keep yourself safe online.

I will say that the fact you used the same password for 10 years probably didn’t help. That can make it easier for a hacker to get it. Especially if you use the same password on other accounts (you shouldn’t), now would be the time to change it everywhere else also.

Two final thoughts

You get what you pay for with free services, particularly when it comes to customer service and account recovery. Are Free Email Services Worth It? discusses the risks you run when using free services.

Having your email account hacked is a pain, and can result in quite a bit of inconvenience and data loss. Make sure you do what you need to protect yourself.

If you found this article helpful, I'm sure you'll also love Confident Computing! My weekly email newsletter is full of articles that help you solve problems, stay safe, and give you more confidence with technology. Subscribe now and I'll see you there soon,

Leo

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4 comments on “I Know My Password is Right, But I Can’t Sign In. What Do I Do?”

  1. To prevent this from happening in the future if you have a Hotmail or other Outlook.com account, there is what almost amounts to a silver bullet. Set up a recovery code from Microsoft and with this code, you will be able to recover a hacked account or get into it if it has been locked for another reason. I say almost a silver bullet because I don’t think you’d be able to use it if the hacker has requested a new one but I think it’s unlikely a hacker would go that far.

    People badmouth Microsoft email accounts but this recovery code feature probably makes it the most bulletproof of all the freemail providers. Their bad reputation is mainly because of serious shortcomings in the past which they’ve rectified.

    Reply
  2. Is there a “not free” email service, that is not related to the CURRENT Internet service Provider (SP ?
    A main reason of using “free email services” is having to change ISP.

    Reply

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