I almost never post anything personal other than season's greetings and Memorial/Remembrance Day thoughts. Today I'd like to share some information about an incident that happened last month: my Gmail account's being hacked and then reclaimed. I have other accounts, like many people, but my being unable to log into this account meant also access denied to this blog. I love writing on this blog and was not about to take this lying down. So I persevered and finally, thanks first to God and then to Google/Gmail, was able to recover my account and, in effect, my blog.
So I'd like to take a moment and share some things I have learned from this. Preparation and awareness are the best cures. Here are some tips I've learned that will lessen the likelihood of your Gmail and mine ever being hijacked again.
1. Never ever use the same password for multiple sites. Very important. Don't allow laziness or convenience to lead you to this error. You can write your usernames, passwords and security questions in a designated notebook.
2. Change your password frequently. Some advise doing so bimonthly or more often.
3. Follow the recovery steps Google & Gmail provide you. If you're unable to log in, if your password is rejected or if you, as I did, get the telltale message, "You changed your password.....day(s) ago," then you know you have a problem. Just follow through the steps. You can read more about them here: Gmail Account Recovery
4. To make it possible for Gmail to recover your account, you should have some data on hand for the recovery form. You will be asked to remember the date you were first invited to Gmail. Do you remember it? I remembered the year but not the exact date. Fortunately, that seemed to be helpful enough. My guess is if you can remember the exact date, that would make the recovery process all the quicker. If you have saved all your correspondences, go back to the very first or second email in your inbox, one of which would be the invitation. Also note who invited you and his/her email address. You can write all this down in that secure notebook that contains sensitive information. Also write down four or five email addresses that you have a history of communicating with on your Gmail account. You will be asked to supply such email addresses. In any case, approximate responses are better than nothing if you cannot be exact. You will also be asked to supply applications used for that account, such as Docs, News, and so on. If possible, try to note exactly when you began using them. Every time you think of something you can add, such as an email address or other pertinent datum, you can go back and resubmit a recovery form. Sooner or later all the data you add will tally with what the Gmail computer finds, and the tide will turn in your favor; you'll get the message, "Congratulations! You're steps away from reclaiming your account . . ."
5. Note the password and the last time it was successfully used. You will be asked what the compromised, erased, altered, etc. password was and the last time you were able to use it to successfully log in.
6. Have more than one Gmail account for recovery purposes.
7. Above all, don't give up hope. I spent about five very bleak days trying to reclaim my account, and all the efforts paid off, despite my being somewhat inept with technical matters, data, terminology, etc. A lot of naysayers on the web will tell you a hacked account is next to impossible to recover. My experience proves otherwise. Bottom line: If I could recover my account all on my own, so can you!
Best wishes & Good luck!