The Computer Corner
By Charles Miller
No direct phone or email support for Windows Live Hotmail? How come?
A call I receive on a regular basis comes from someone pleading for help in recovering a lost email password. The big three free email providers (Gmail, HotMail and Yahoo) all have established practices governing how a lost password may be recovered, and I am quite familiar with all these procedures. After years of experience I am usually able to make a quick determination as to whether or not a person will be able to recover their email account. Unfortunately, it is often the case that the caller does not know enough information and I can see right away that they will never be able to recover their lost email account. With the right information it is usually possible to recover an account though.
Recently I had my long string of successes broken when I undertook to recover a lost password for a client who had enough information, it should have been possible to recover her password; but I was still unable to do so. What I learned from this last experience that apparently Microsoft is now so completely swamped by the thousands and thousands of Hotmail users with lost passwords that they are no longer make any attempt to respond to requests for help. Obviously this is because criminals are stealing thousands of passwords from users who unwisely use short, easy-to-guess passwords; and there are too many users who continue to believe this cannot happen to them. The fact is that if you use a simple password, some crook somewhere can guess it. If criminals gain access to your account, they can use your email to send spam or to scam your friends. If the crooks change your security information (secret question, date of birth, etc.) then it is very unlikely you will ever recover your email account.
The reason for this is that all the password recovery systems today are automated processes with no live human beings involved, except you. In order to recover a lost password it is necessary to fill out forms and to do so in exactly the way the system expects to find the answers. If you do not have those answers, you do not get your password.
The only way to contact Hotmail is through their Windows Live Help web site. There is no telephone support, and if you do not believe me I will quote from their web site: “We don’t offer any direct phone or email support for Windows Live Hotmail.” I knew this already, and I also have experience filling in the forms to request a review by customer support for a lost password.
I have my own Turing Test which I applied in dealing with Windows Live Help and through this learned there is nothing about this “Live Help” that is alive any longer. No matter how many times I wrote to Windows Live Help, no matter what I wrote to them, the only response I ever received was automated, such as the last message: “We have concluded our review of the information you provided. Our agents were unable to validate that you are the account owner.” The message concludes, “Our final recommendation is to create a new Windows Live ID account.” With that Microsoft canceled my Windows Live Help temporary account making sure I would have no chance to communicate with them further. How rude! HotMail’s automated system provides no means to appeal and no way to ever contact a live human being. You sure do get what you pay for.
Starting over from scratch is inconvenient and can be an extremely expensive proposition for anyone who used a free Gmail, HotMail or Yahoo account for their business, and then was foolish enough to use a simple, easy-to-guess password. All of this is why I constantly rail against using free email accounts for anything important. Your emails, address book, documents, photographs, or anything else you keep stored in the cloud runs the very real risk of being lost forever if you loose access to the account.
Please protect your email account by using a cryptographically strong password and by keeping your account recovery information up to date.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.