Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

If your Hotmail account has been stolen your only recourse it to try to regain access. Only then can you close it. I'll look at the recovery steps.

My old e-mail was stolen and my contacts asked for money. I have a new e-mail, but just learned that my old one is still open (though I can't get into it). It worries me that some of my contacts are sending to my old e-mail and what they send may be seen by the thieves. HOW DO I GET HOTMAIL TO CLOSE MY OLD ACCOUNT SO THAT ANYONE SENDING TO IT WILL GET A FAILURE NOTICE?

Account theft - particularly of Hotmail accounts - seems rampant right now. Lots of people are asking questions similar to the above.

The news is not good, but I'll walk you through some of your options so you can at least try.

Closing An Account You Can't Access

The sad fact is that if you cannot access your account you cannot close it. In fact, you can't do anything at all.

Think about it for a minute, and you'll see why it must be that way.

If someone who didn't have access to an account could close it ... well, then anyone could come along and close any account. Clearly that cannot be allowed to happen.

And if you can prove that it was your account - well then they might as well simply restore your access.

"If you cannot get your account back, there is nothing you can do."

So the answer is to regain control of the account.

Unfortunately that's much, much easier said than done.

Regaining Access

You should first try the normal means of regaining access: At the login screen enter your account email address and then click on the "Forgot your password?" link. This will allow you to either:

  • use the answer to your secret question to prove you are the rightful account owner

  • send a password reset link to an alternate email address that you have already configured for the account

If those don't work for you - perhaps you never set them up as you should have, or have forgotten the answer or lost access to the alternate account - then you have one last shot at regaining access.

Go to the Account Password Recovery page in the Windows Live Help center. After suggesting what I've already suggested (secret question or alternate email) this will walk you through a sequence that may recover your account. To quote from the Windows Live Help site:

To assist you recovering your account, the following steps will occur:

  1. We will ask you to supply a current email address that you currently can access and where we can communicate with you directly.

  2. We will ask you a series of questions about your account. We will use your answers and what we know about you to validate that you are the account owner.

  3. We will create a private forum for just you and our support agents where you can track the investigation, ask additional questions, supply additional information and find the results of our investigation.

  4. We will create a temporary access link for you that you can use to access the private forum. This will be displayed on screen and sent to the contact email address provided in step 1. This account is temporary and will only remain accessible for 30 days. (See below for details)

Here's the problem, as I hear about it from some users that have attempted this:

  • If it fails, you cannot get your account back. They will not tell you why it failed, because doing so would give too much information to possible hackers.

  • If they do not respond, you cannot get your account back. I'm sure that they're overwhelmed with requests, and simply do not have the staff to address them all.

If you cannot get your account back, there is nothing you can do.

Nothing.

If You Get Your Account Back

If you get your account back you may be tempted to simply close it.

Don't.

At least not right away.

Before you close your account, remove any and all information from it. Your email, your contacts, your personal information and most importantly any information that the hacker could use to regain access to your account using the very same process that you just did.

If you elect to keep your account - change all that information. Anything you leave as-is - secret questions, alternate emails, random other personal data - could all be used by the hacker to regain access to the account just as you did.

About That Failure Message

You asked how to close it so that people attempting to send to the account would get a failure notice.

You don't.

Oh, you can close the account if you regain access to it, as we've seen above.

The problem is that this does not guarantee that people emailing it will suddenly get failure notices. In fact, I'm not aware of any way to make sure that a failure notice will be sent. Failure notices for non existent accounts are often not sent, and if sent are often filtered - both are casualties of the war against spam.

And because Hotmail also includes a "cooling off period" where the account is closed-but-not-really in case you want to change your mind later, there's no telling what it does with email sent to the account during that period of time.

Bottom Line

I know that a lot of people are tired of hearing me say it, but say it I must: Hotmail is a free service and you're getting what you pay for in terms of customer support. If you do get your account back you should consider yourself extremely lucky, because based on what I hear that a majority of people do not.

Make sure you're taking all the steps possible to keep your account safe.

Article C4370 - July 14, 2010 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

3 Comments
MtRtMk
July 16, 2010 10:09 AM

"Account theft - particularly of Hotmail accounts - seems rampant right now."

Why? Is there any vulnerability in hotmail that is being exploited or is it because of phishing/careless users?

Not that I'm aware of. I believe it's getting hit hard because it's such a huge target, and perhaps specifically because customer service is so incredibly spotty and the probability of getting your account back is so slim.
Leo
17-Jul-2010

bill
July 20, 2010 9:27 AM

If you get it back (and strip EVERY connection to your old settings, addressbook, etc), monitor it or forward it to an account you can monitor. That way you can personally send "my address has changed" notices to anyone that is still using it and warn them that the address will become dead in the near future.

Then, if no one is using it for a long time, kill off the account.

Heather
July 20, 2010 3:59 PM

My hotmail a/c was recently hacked into and the password changed, with bogus emails being sent out to my contacts asking for money. Unfortunately i had either forgotten my security questions or the hacker had changed them, as i was not successful with the "forgot password" option. However, going to the Account Password Recovery through Windows Live Help did the trick and helped me regain access to my a/c after which i changed the password. I was not previously optimistic about getting it back, but it did work so I would recommend people trying it! I don't use the Hotmail a/c that much, but just on principle i wanted access back!!

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.