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!