This is a horror story with lots of lessons in it for you! Please heed them!!!
UPDATE: I got my gmail account back. Read this post to find out how. But first, continue reading what I learned before getting it back.
THIS IS DIRECTLY RELEVANT TO YOU!
Part 1: My Google (Gmail) account is gone
Tuesday night at 10:06pm my phone couldn’t connect to my Gmail account.
I tried the password…it didn’t work.
I came up to my computer and tried to login…no luck.
After putting my account into the “Forgot Password” system I got:
That’s right: “No account found with that email address. Please try again.”
I tried again. and again. and again. and again. Nothing.
So I searched:
No account found with that email address. Please try again.
Turns out lots of people have had their gmail accounts deleted (or disabled)…with very little success getting them back.
OH MY GOSH!!! WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME!!!
I’ve had my account for 7 years. Never deleted a message. I’ve gotten 170,000 messages in that time (I’ll tell you how I know in a minute).
I can’t login to my google docs, google calendar, google voice, youtube.com, or google sites where I had LOTS of documentation for my business. They’ve all been deleted (or disabled…yet to be determined).
I can’t access anything!
What the heck was I thinking trusting so many things to a company who has a ZERO policy:
- ZERO tolerance
- ZERO warning
- ZERO communication
- ZERO acceptions
- ZERO phone numbers
Don’t get me wrong…google provides the best services. There’s a reason I’m using all these things. But there has to be a safeguard when you’re using a company who will disable such vital information without warning or repercussion. Be warned.
In the end I found this link:
which is an account recovery link for if your account has been disabled.
Go through that link right now! WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING THEY ASK FOR BEFORE THIS HAPPENS TO YOU!
Fortunately for me, I had read a blog post about this a while back so I had written lots of this info down and put it in a drawer thinking I would probably lose the paper before I needed it.
I have the info. It’s not as complete as I’d like (or as complete as google would like as of right now), but I have a lot of info. Google has already said NO to my first request to get my account back. I didn’t have enough information in my first try. I’ll update this blog as things progress.
Right now all my email is just bouncing back to people who email me. My email address no longer exists.
What I *think* happened?
I think a hacker got into my account. Either
- they did what they wanted and then deleted the account
- they sent a bunch of spam, google caught it and disabled the account
It’s also possible that I did something google didn’t like (I mean…they wouldn’t tell me if I had…), but I don’t think I did anything different than I have for the past 7 years…
In any case, I’ll never know because even IF I get my account back, Google will never tell me what happened.
Part 2: What I learned from having my gmail account deleted
First: I learned (again) that with google, there is 1 chance.
If something goes wrong, there are no warnings, no communication, and very little shot at a second chance. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
That being said, I still believe google puts out the best products and I’m still using them as I reconstruct my life.
Second: MAKE BACKUPS OF EVERYTHING YOU HAVE!!!
I had backups of my gmail and google docs. My life isn’t over.
I backup in 2 ways.
Here’s how you backup your gmail account:
- Zoho.com will give you a free email account and they’ll POP your email from gmail. I’ve had them doing this for years. Zoho is amazing.
As of right now I have over 175,000 emails backed up in zoho.
Zoho has also been invaluable in figuring out all the info google wants to get my account back.
**UPDATE**: I just read this post which details some ways to backup google services. It also says that using POP3 to grab all your emails is against google’s TOS. Be careful before you do it. I can’t find anything saying it’s against their TOS, but we know what happens with TOS violations…
- Backupify.com is an amazing backup service.
They backup all kinds of online data including gmail, facebook, flickr, blogger, and picasa.
I also had Backupify backup google docs…so I have a copy of all my docs (that’s a big deal…over 4 years of documents).
With Backupify, they automatically backup your data and you don’t have to worry about it. It’s an amazing service.
- Here are more ways to backup gmail:
- There are lots of other ways to backup gmail. Just search google. Those are the two I use.
Third: I will never again use a free email address that I don’t own.
When someone else is in control of your contact location (your email address), when they decide to take it from you, you’re out of luck.
From now on I’ll have my own domain and have Google Apps handle the email.
Now, if something happens to my account, I just change my DNS settings to somewhere else and my email address doesn’t disappear.
Because I have backups of everything, if they disable my account, I can just reconstruct everything.
Yesterday I bought a domain from Godaddy for less than $8 (search “godaddy promo code” and use a coupon when checking out). I have already set it up in Google Apps and have a new email address.
Fourth: Dealing with passwords
I shouldn’t have to say that using an insecure password is just playing with fire. At some point you WILL get burned. That’s just stupid.
Most people use a secure password, they just use the same password for everything.
I’m fine with that…to a point.
Now I know you should always have a different password for the things that matter to you:
- godaddy (or domain registrar)
- …figure out what’s important to you
Use a different secure password for each of the important ones.
Fifth: Prepare for the worst with ALL important accounts
I’m in the process of going through the account recovery steps for things that are important to me (especially the google account recovery process). When I lose another account, I want to be able to get it back fast.
I love Lastpass. I love that I have all my passwords in one place, and that I can find out all the services that I have passwords to just by looking through the list. I also love that I can change my important passwords as often as needed and I don’t have to worry about remembering them. Lastpass does it for me, across all my computers and my phone.
Before you hate on me and say I’m stupid for using an online service to store my passwords, look at the security Lastpass uses. It’s pretty darn good.
If you have a gmail.com address as your primary email you’re playing with fire.
I’m not saying don’t use gmail. I’m just saying:
Make backups. Lots. Often.
Make sure you’re prepared to go through the recovery process of your important digital data.
Here’s another horror story of an expensive hacking…and things you should change right now!
I currently run my entire biz through G. docs and this is a bit scary.
I'm off to do some back ups.
Lastpass is by far the best password management tool I have ever used. I cannot believe people still get by typing in passwords the old way and trying to remember them all. Lastpass enables you to have really unique passwords and you never have to remember them again. I also use the search option in lastpass every day.
I wouldn't use google to store my dog. Google is Big Brother and they have started and will continue to expand their use of all the information they collect about you.
I'm not usually paranoid, but google scares the hell out of me!
John thanks for sharing this nightmare! Oh boy, I'll def. look out for a better solution. All the best for your data-recovery 😉
I store everything offline. If something happens, e.g., the government shutting down the internet as happened in Egypt or in the bill currently in the Senate, you have the data stored where you can get it.. Hard drives are cheap. Lost data is expensive. It's happened before and will happen again. I don't know if Senator John D. "I think it would have been better if the internet had never been invented" Rockefeller, IV, D. W.V. is co-sponsoring this bill again but it's alive and kicking.
I had my google email hacked…like you said…probably not a very secure password…they logged in and changed the contact information to their mobile phone….so everytime I tried to get back my account, google notified them first. i finally somehow beat them to the punch and got my email back. but. i live in silicon valley. i went to their office for help…the security police threatened to throw me out of their office…even though some hacker was going through my personal mail with all types of personal and financial information. i think google has addressed the hacking problm with a new service whereby they notify you if somehow changes your profile../…….i don't know how this works if the accoount is deleted. but…i think you are right……i will get an email account i own and backup my onlne accounts..
http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/reques… does not work now.It is PW recovery only. Bummer
Wow! Thanks John. So sorry you had to experience that and yet so grateful you shared this. Not only will I back up everything. I think I may restructure all my business email through my own domain and then forward to gmail account. What a horrific story!
Thanks for the heads up… I also have had my Gmail accounts for years.
Can you please clarify how you are saying to use Google Apps to take care of email coming through your "own" domain email address? I went to the Apps page but dont understand how this should be setup.
I currently setup each of my domains like: email@example.com and then on my hosting account I have that forward to my main gmail account… BUT… now I am interested in switching this out to what you are saying.. just not clear on how the Apps portion works with a domain email.
Your feedback would be appreciated.
I'm taking your advice and trying to save all the information on that form, but where in the world do you find when you signed up for all those services??? The only one I could find was for YouTube, on my Channel page. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated!
I will definitely be looking at the other options you recommended for backing up my Google information! Great post!
John – hate to hear this…!
I know this has to be a TOTAL pain in the arse for you!! No doubt…
How does this compare to losing your adwords account? I remember how that impacted you and your biz.
I imagine this must have been much worse!
Thank you John for the detailed information. I'm sorry you've had this experience and am grateful you've taken the time to help educate the rest of us.
Thanks John…really appriciate the timely warning!
Alternative way to ensure google don't delete our gmail account is to subscribe for they additional storage of $20/year
Hi Carousel good information
Thanks for sharing,
I like most also use Google for almost everything. Time to start backing up, thanks for the resources and sorry it happened to you!
Thank you for the great info.
Thanks for making me aware of this. I am sure others appreciate this informative info as well
Well you live learn this could have been me.
Very useful reminder to us all to not put all our eggs in one basket but instead have a backup plan & take ownership of our own virtual real estate or email A/C – thanks Jon!
My password was (and is) a random string of letters, numbers, and symbols. It was not a simple one.
@"Crazylarry" – I'm pretty sure that google has bigger fish to go after than me. I have lots of other accounts at google. They didn't shut them down, just this one. I don't think it's "them targeting me."
Thanks for such a valuable info. im sharing this 😉
I do hope that you get to retrieve your account back. I never expected that this would happen with GMAIL…..
Jonas, that truly sucks. One suggestion in my opinion and experience is NEVER use Godaddy as your registrar service. They can shut your registration down for spam complaints or business complaints even if you are in the right, which means not only would you lose your email but your websites and business as well. Just do a search on them about this policy of theirs and the associated horror stories. Use a service like Namecheap, which has way better functionality anyway. Cheers Cliff (met you and your wife in Thailand at a meal that David Cavanagh held).
Gmail accounts do get hacked – I know as it happened to me two weeks ago. Luckily I was able to deal with it quickly and only had one spam email go out to all my contacts before I changed the password. However I haven't backed everything up so will be following your advice!
I'm trying hard to not let my day be dictated by things that turn up in my in box overnight, but today I have to make an exception and take action.
Thanks for the advice.
I love Gmail but never realized you could lose your Gmail account. This is very scary i have multiple Gmail accounts and I have put to much trust in Google. thanks for sharing and making us aware.
Another thing i will share is that I have a G1 mobile that i synced to my gmail account little did I realized that it synced all my phone numbers on my phone to my gmail account.
So i went in to my gmail account and deleted the phone numbers and guess what happend next my phone contacts all got deleted.
Now i dont connect anything external to gmail and I have taken out gmail syncing from my phone.
That is a scary story and it made me rethink how I use my Gmail account. This is one of my fear so I rotate and change my passwords every now and then. Thank you for sharing your learnings.
Damn! That sucks bad! I can't imagine what would happen if my account got deleted. Sooooo many e-mails.
Hopefully you can get it back. I'm going to start doing some back-ups on mine. Thanks for the info and best of luck John!
I had my gmail account deleted too, last year for my top domain. I wish I knew this then. I just had to setup a new address again. Jonas you're right & thanks for the advice.
Hi John … sorry to hear about that…. Thank you for the backup information…
Do you know of similar experiences happening with YAHOO Mail?
Thank you… Mack
Yeah, I had given them all that stuff. That's for password recovery.
I think a hacker got into the account with my password (which wouldn't trigger the text message or emails or anything) and they disabled the account for me (the hacker) sending out spam.
At least…that's my theory as of right now.
Yes, I'm forcing https
While I don't KNOW that backupify aren't data miners, I have a pretty good idea they're not because I got in when I could still have them back stuff up to my s3 account.
I don't pay them enough to have them justify storing all my stuff on their s3 account.
Yes back up your file by: external hard drive, in dvd, cd, and in the cloud like jungledisk.
Sorry for your loss. I hope you'll recover therm.
It should be: Zero Exceptions, not Acceptions
Wow, as many have said before Gmail, and Gdocs are where I keep everything. I have an Android phone and everything syncs so beautifully. But of course with awesome power comes awesome responsibility. I still love the convenience, but I'm truly grateful for this wake-up call. I have to stop relying on a free service for all this critical information.
Sorry you had to be the guinea pig, but so glad you shared for the betterment of our community! Thanks again John!
John – very many thanks for sharing this info. I shall be passing it on.
Hi John, After this heads-up. I went to the Gmail Account recovery page to see what questions they ask. Where do we get the answers for everything. I.E When did you open your gmail account > To the date?? Who know these things. Unless I`m missing something.
Sorry but if it gets routed to a gmail account and the gmail account gets deleted what happens then. I'm sorry it still unclear to me. Thanks for your patience.
Could agree with you more…
Just think about the hundreds, if not thousands of people who lost basically their
financial income due to google's zero tolerance policy.
You'd better have a safety net in dealing with 'G' or any such company for that matter.
Excellent info… but what does Google Apps have to do with handling the email? Looked at Google Apps and do not understand the relationship.
Great post – you've inspired me to backup my gmail pronto with Backify.
Have a look at this – IMAPSize – for removing & archiving all large attachments locally first.
There's a tutorial here: http://www.labnol.org/software/delete-large-email…
Sounds like you need to replace yourself like I've done 🙂
I too had been using a FREE account and now going through hell trying to clean up all my email. My account was not deleted but now I am inundated with all kinds newsletters and offers that I never opted in for. Not only that but I'm also receiving a ton of pron mail and offers. Before receiving this email I had opted to go from Yahoo to Gmail. Now I see the follie in that and will be getting my own domain with my own email account.
Thanks for the heads up and all the information associated with it. I guess I'll have to start over.
Thanks for the info. Appreciate it.
That happened to me too a few years back. I think I got hacked as well. Gone never to return. I threw my mouse across the room seriously. Bad, bad day. ;<
I ended up having to start all over again with a new gmail account. Glad to hear you were able to get it sorted out and get your old account back.
Enter texlogint right here!
Serves you right, if you were relying on a gmail account. I mean, gmail, really? Talk about unprofessional.
thanks for all the needed information. learned a lot
Thanks for this posting and warning. Sorry for that terrible experience . The back-up information will be quite useful. Cheers.
Always backup everything. I've been through something similar and it took me a long time to recover from all the loses. Great info!
My gmail format has changed, how do I go back to the old one? RE: I lost my "more to" section, which disappeared. I have a difficult time selecting an email to read, (the curser has to be in the perfect spot to read an email). I like to go back to the old format. Mimi
Nick, you're 100% right and you said what I've been thinking for years. I'm not paranoid or a conspiricy type person,but it wouldn't surprise me to learn of a connection between google and government.
It's very very foolish to keep all your information eggs in one basket, especially if that basket is malelovent and feels like they own the world.
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I recommend keeping Google completely out of your business. No Google Docs, nothing.
They have the right to read everything, secretly archive things even after you delete them, and more.
You have no privacy using anything Google related, that include analytics.
STAY AWAY from Google!
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Oouch, sorry to hear about your misfortune. I can only imagine how devastated you were and what pain in the rear it must have caused you. I'm happy you were able to come up with solutions to remedy the situation. Your article was not only a good read, but it also provided much needed information. Again, thanks. Linda
It's just happened to me today
I just had my google account deleted, think it was over a comment on one of my blogs.
Thing is i cannot sign in to retrieve anything or contact them as i cannot access my google account obviously as they ask for a phone number and i dont have a phone.
glad you sorted out your problems, as for me, not sure what to do
My gmail has disappeared without explanation. If you have a reason I would like to know about,
I can handle it.