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

Some Windows Live Hotmail users are seeing accounts closed for a "Terms of Use Violation" - we'll look at what that is, and what to do.

I received a message while logging on that my account had been closed or access denied due to a violation of the terms and use agreement. I have no idea why this would have occurred. I do not send out mass e-mails creating a spam issue and I do not send pornographic e-mails. I have no idea if someone else could have hacked into my e-mail and done so, but feel that someone should have asked me for some sort of response before they just close my account. I have very important saved files and all of my contact information is in there and I can't access it. I have sent 2 e-mails to the address I was provided by the on-line support team, one Monday and one Tuesday and have yet to receive an answer. I even told them if they need me to change the address and they can just transfer my files and contacts over I would do that, but I have heard nothing.

I'm actually hearing about this frequently, and what I'm hearing is not good.

As you can imagine, there's a lot of frustration around this issue. I can understand why Hotmail would "close first, ask questions later", but if that's the approach then I also understand why their lack of follow up response would be so very frustrating.

Let me explain what I think is going on.

I need to be clear about something before we dive in: *I* cannot get your account back. I don't have any special magic. The steps to getting your account back are yours to take, and outlined below. Comments and requests for me to somehow get your account back will be deleted. I apologize for being that blunt about it, but experience shows it's exactly the kind of feedback that these types of articles generate.

"The most common cause for a Terms of Use Violation is that your account was stolen and then used to spam or harass others."

The most common cause for a Terms of Use Violation is that your account was stolen and then used to spam or harass others.

However, that's not the only cause.

First, quoting from the Windows Live Support Forums, possible reasons for a "Terms of Use Violation" are things like:

  • Unwanted e-mail or "spam"

  • Abusive or harassing e-mail

  • Phishing or account fraud

Of course you've not done any of that. Right? RIGHT? Because if you have, then you can stop reading now, and consider the account lost. You violated the rules, and properly lost your account because of it.

Here's where things get frustrating: You want to know what you did wrong, and they won't tell you.

There's a reason for that.

Aside from the published Microsoft Service Agreement, aka the "Terms Of Use", there's no published definition of what exactly constitutes a violation. The agreement uses general terms that leave specific rules open for interpretation.

In fact, you'll never find a list of specifically detailed rules. Why? Because by making such a list public the "bad guys" would then have a rule book they could follow to be as bad as possible, without breaking the rules. They would push those publicly published rules to the limit - which in turn would render those rules absolutely useless to legitimate users.

The result is that highly likely they'll never tell you what "rule" you violated, because doing so would make that rule public.

It gets worse.

What does "harassing e-mail" mean? Does it mean a friend or an enemy could "report" you to Windows Live Hotmail as having harassed them, and would that be enough to get your account closed? One would hope it's not that simple, but then again, if you send something that could be considered harassment, perhaps it should be. The fact is we just don't know, and it's likely we'll never know, for exactly the same reasons: Hotmail doesn't want to give potential abusers the rule book.

What to do?

This post in the Windows Live Support Forum details the steps to be taken. They boil down to:

  • Follow the instructions on the page that notifies you your account has been closed.

  • Email abuse@hotmail.com - from another email account obviously - detailing the issue.

You can certainly post to the Windows Live Support Forums yourself, but based on what I see there, you'll simply be instructed to follow one or the other of the instructions above.

Unfortunately, the success rate on getting satisfaction via this route seems mixed. They indicate that you should get a response in 24 hours, but many people get no response at all. I also can't say whether the responses that do happen are helpful. I know that there are people who've successfully regained their account, but I also know that there are many who have not.

I know of no other courses of action. None. Email abuse@hotmail.com and hope for the best. Nothing else.

Personally, I think it's highly unlikely that you'll actually regain access to your account.

If this happens to you, the most important thing you can do is learn from the experience.

  • Understand and follow the terms that govern your use of any service you happen to use. Hotmail - and any online service you use - has every right to terminate your account for anything that constitutes a violation of those terms. And they're not required to help you recover.

  • Never, ever rely on a free email service being there when you need it. That means never, ever use a free email service as the only place you keep important things. 99.9% of the time there's absolutely no problem, but still I hear a constant stream of horrific stories from people who've lost incredibly important documents and photos and more when they've lost access - permanently - to their free email accounts.

  • Backup. This is really the previous point restated - free email accounts like Windows Live Hotmail can be great solutions as long as you backup. That means downloading your email, or auto-forwarding it to a different service, or just about anything that will somehow duplicate everything in the account somewhere else. If you have a backup then losing your account isn't nearly the disaster that so many seem to experience.

Finally, even if you choose to disregard my recommendations, consider your experience, and vote with your feet: if Windows Live Hotmail's service doesn't meet your needs, then go somewhere else. There are many, many alternatives.

Article C3788 - June 25, 2009 « »

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?

29 Comments
Mark Jacobs
June 26, 2009 5:51 AM

You for got the last and most important step. Be prepared to get the runaroung from Microsoft for several months before they solve your problem, if ever.

I had a problem sending from my GMX account to Hotmail. Hotmail flagged my provider as an abuser. It took several months for them to solve the problem and the problem continued to come back a few times.

I'd follow Leo's last suggestion. switch providers . GMail is great if you want to use an email client. Or Yahoo if you only use web mail. I like Gmail better even for web mail as yahoo sometimes does funny things with attachments.

Alan Newble
June 30, 2009 10:04 AM

What's wrong with Outlook Express or Windows Mail? I've used them for years, and any problems - the info is all there on my PC! Backed up if it is important.

I don't see how they relate to the article, but I will say this: based on the number of reports of lost and corrupt emails and database files, I would avoid Outlook Express for anything important. (Probably Windows Mail as well, since it's an Outlook Express derivative.)
- Leo
01-Jul-2009

Jeff
June 30, 2009 11:27 AM

My daughter recently had her Hotmail account hacked and stollen. They changed the password and security question, so she could not log in or change her password etc. I filled out an online form that was rather lengthy, but within 24 hours she had her account back. She then closed it and opened a new account. The hacker sent out spam email to everyone in her contacts list asking for money in my daughters name. My daughter was alerted to this when a friend asked why she was asking for money.

I have traced the ip address to a military base in Arizona. What, if anything can she do to have this person caught and prosectuted if possible?

You'd need to contact law enforcement. In my opinion your chances of success are low, simple because there's so much of this, and it probably doesn't prioritize as high as other things the police need to deal with. But I could be wrong.
- Leo
01-Jul-2009
Patricia Whitlow
June 30, 2009 4:07 PM

I use Hotmail as an email account since I left AOL. I have not had problems with it, but shortly after leaving AOL I found a program called IncrediMail. It is not an email provider, it is just a program that allows me to write and receive email. It also allows me to store my email and contacts right on my computer. It has a back up that I can use for my files and my contacts, which I keep on a safe source.
I was given to understand that outlook express is like this but I have never used it and know nothing about that. The incredimail was a free program when I first got it but I did purchase some addons. I can't imagine what on earth I would do without my IncrediMail program. It is such a great little program. If Hotmail locks me out I don't worry because all I would lose is one days mail. It comes into my incredimail each day when I open the account. Incredimail also has an add on Junk filter that is great.
Thought your readers might like to know.

James Ferris
July 1, 2009 11:17 AM

two notes...
First, when receiving any emails from any service, including from Hotmail, always examine the enclosed urls with extreme caution and prejudice. SPAMers love to send forged emails saying 'click here to get your account back'. This is actually how many people loose their account... clicking, giving their account info on a forged website, and that's that! When you get such an email, first check the providers help website (don't use the urls in the email to get there), and use the feadback access forms provided (eg the email address Leo gave in the atrticle). Then try logging in as you normally would just to see if there really is an issue.

Second, IncrediMail is great... but it's based on Outlook Express and Internet Explorer. So the weaknesses of each of these programs are the same weaknesses of IncrediMail. Neither can be really trusted for mission-critical email activities. The only truely business-grade email client from MS might be Outlook.

Alex
July 2, 2009 6:24 AM

The first thing that you need to remember is that Hotmail or any other free web mail system is not secure, reliable, or open to argument if you lose it. Your only way to get decent free e-mail is the e-mail you get from your ISP (unless you are just too cheap to pay for a good ISP). I get 10 e-mail addresses from mine, and all my stuff, address book, saved messages, and other stuff is saved on my computer. Plus, do not use Lookout, er, I mean Outlook, Outlook Express, or Windows Mail unless you like to live dangerously. Try Mozilla Firefox, a true industry standard.

I suspect you mean Mozilla Thunderbird, the email program. (FireFox is the web browser.)
- Leo
02-Jul-2009

dlh
July 20, 2009 12:37 AM

RE: Jeff's post and Leo's reply. What I've asked before and don't understand is why internet spam, scams, fraud, identity theft, etc. takes such a "back seat" with both internet service providers, et al, and with law enforcement. (I do realize lot of this crap originates in other countries.)

If a few (hundred) scammers/thieves got thrown in jail for 40 or 50 years maybe, just maybe, it would help.

Am I naive?

Ultimately: ISPs are busy enough just keeping things working, and while spam is annoying as all heck, it's -- annoying. Law enforcement tends to prioritize more serious crimes. My guess, anyway. (That being said, there are large sections of the FBI and other agencies battling it. It's juts a MASSIVE problem, and much, as you say, originates out of our jurisdiction.)
- Leo
20-Jul-2009
gary Cobb
February 13, 2010 4:53 AM

I went to log on to hotmail to find it read account closed, access denied due to a violation of terms. I have no idea why this happened, i filled in the contact form and to date have not had a single reply. Any ideas how to get it back?

Guy Beauchamp
April 12, 2010 5:13 AM

I was forwarding my new e-mail address to my contacts & they blocked me from doing so, I receive e-mail but cannot forward it.

Saul Mcleod
April 15, 2010 12:06 PM

MY account too has been closed for weeks and no response , months of job applications and years of contacts lost, can I sui

Of course you can sue. The question is, will you win? I'm no lawyer, but I'm guessing you won't. Hotmail is a free service, and the terms of service that you agreed to when setting up the account I'm sure hold Hotmail free from any responsibility for data loss. This is why I so strongly recommend against free email accounts as the only place to keep important information. Those job applications and contacts should have been regularly backed up somewhere else, preferably on your own PC.
Leo
17-Apr-2010

J ATA
May 6, 2010 4:39 PM

My hotmail was just closed as well, no warning, not nothing. I would think with the tech we have today to open, we could do the same to reopen. I have been using hotmail since 2006...i'm not likely to be a threat as a spammer/scammer/crammer. Instead a daily user of an available system. Microsoft needs to have better handle on closing accounts...in some cases, the account are someone's life blood...years of information, contacts, history gone. I need this account back...I know you can do it and probably with very little effort...help is appreciated.

The steps available to you in the article you just commented on, where I also clearly state that I cannot recover accounts.
Leo
07-May-2010

James
May 10, 2010 7:38 AM

I had recived a few spam e-mails that looked and acted as if they ahd been sent from my account. I followed the stated steps in reporting account problems and next thing i know my account has been closed for over a week now and not a word from any of the support teams at all.

Why do i have to take the hit for reporting an issue when it wasn't me causing it? i cycle my account passwords on a regular basis and changed them as soon as i got this spam. Its not that someone has hacked my account, but it does look like somone has found a way of tagging spam e-mails with legitimate information to make it look like that e-mail account has been abused.

Why does microsoft treat its customers like fools? when all of their services as just so flawed?

My other e-mail account has been about for years, its been hacked, it gets spam and porn and all sorts of junk and yet microsoft leave it be and shutdown my clean good working account instead for me doing the right thing.

soupnazi
May 13, 2010 10:56 AM

3 weeks ago my account was hacked and my contact list was spammed. I searched forums to find what to do about it and found the common answer was to report to abuse@hotmail.com. The next day my account was closed.

I've been spending hours upon hours of my time trying to contact support. I decided to contact support for another department and I received a response within 24 hrs. I told them I was aware that this was the wrong department and explained my problem of not getting response from Windows Live Hotmail Support. They then sent me instructions to "solve" my problem. I did everything they told me to do and after a week of corresponding with 5 different support agents from the wrong department I received an email telling me I had the wrong department??????? Yes, Very frustrating.

I also thought I found support when I submitted the account validation questions at http://support.live.com where they opened a private forum after I submitted my information They said a support agent would respond within 24 or 48 hrs. One week later I had a reply that said my password is verified. Problem is my password isn't the problem. I can sign in but it just says my account is closed. Do support people actually read emails?

Dee
June 30, 2010 1:59 PM

My msn account was also closed during a time when I was desperately seeking a free treadmill in Craigslist. Actually, Im on my 3rd or 4th e-mail address & like the others I have had my first account several years, but lucky for me dont have enough important stuff going on to "freak out"! Everytime I respond to one of these "ads" after shutting down my computer BOOM there it is again, that I have violated my account & that it is closed once again. I have been blaming craigslist for this or my lack of knowledge on outlook express. However, my husband thinks its much more sinister. What is happening here? Thank you so much for your time

Jay
August 2, 2010 12:48 AM

I responded to four different Craigslist postings for rooms to rent. I am now stationed over seas and will be returning in a little over a month. I had several possibilites saved on my email, along with obviously, thier return email for future contact. I lost everything I have done so far and am now back to square one. All my names, contacts, emails and phone numbers of these people are gone. I am way beyond mad at this point. I have sent two different requests asking them to look into my account. I've had the same account for three years!! Is this the thanks I get for supporting our country, giving them the freedom and the right to just shut down my account. Thanks..maybe I will buy a Mac now.

A Mac won't solve this problem. You need to not rely on free email services for anything important. I've said it again and again: Are free email services worth it?
Leo
02-Aug-2010

esmeralda
August 5, 2010 11:26 AM

strangely enough, it just happened to me yesterday...i happen to email a few folks on craigslist. i think there is a connection with craigslist...are people on there hacking and compromising people's emails?

J
September 11, 2010 8:36 AM

I have the same problem as everyone and that is CRAIGSLIST! i posted like the other guy about 4 msgs for an ipod and this is what ends up happening... total bs if you ask me. workarounds at the moment are taking time to devlope.

Tim
September 24, 2010 3:28 AM

I've had my hotmail account since 1998 - I receive very little spam. Today I logged in and when I came back a bit later, Hotmail essentially told me 'we logged you out for your security we do this after 24 hours...'. When I logged back in, my account was blocked. I tried the secret question to no avail and my attempts to obtain a verification code via text message go nowhere. About a week ago Hotmail prompted me to change my password upon logging in. I tested the new password immediately by logging in from another PC, just in case I had been snookered. I then noticed there was a new feature to prompt for changing your password every 72 days. I am very suspicious this whole mess is caused by a Hotmail upgrade under the guise of added security. Looks like I'm about to learn an ugly lesson...

Tim
September 24, 2010 6:47 PM

Followup: I had no success with the self-proclaimed "service" center. There is a severe, and I mean SEVERE lack of comprehension on the part of whomever Microsoft is hiring/outsourcing to handle the responses. Ultimately, I discovered that my cell carrier was not passing confirmation messages to my phone and once I enlisted the aid of my brother, was able to get back into my account. Sadly, the so-called security checks are not very secure :(

Hugh
February 18, 2011 11:10 AM

Just had the same thing happen. I have been trying to locate an aopt for rent in London for a vacation in a few weeks. I was sending out responses to postings on Craiglist London, which seems to be rife with scammers. This is the only thing I can think of that t could have caused this. I, also, have lots of messages and the address book that I need to be able to access!

Mars
March 7, 2011 8:29 PM

I just had this happen to me!! :( I sent out responses to employers on Craigslist! I made all my accounts import to Hotmail and now what? That sucks.

This article discusses recovery options for the various ways that Hotmail accounts can be lost or compromised: What are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options? You can avoid this in the future by not putting all your important things into only a single free email account with little or no support.
Leo
08-Mar-2011

Mike
May 18, 2011 6:51 AM

Shame on MSN for providing a popular service and doing absolutely nothing to support it. My account was closed for no reason and it would seem that I have little or no recourse.

Ze Mog
September 10, 2011 4:34 PM

Being a recent victim of hijacked accounts I have become a bit of an expert on this issue, having spent multiple hours of trouble shooting.

My accounts were hijacked, all the password recovery emails had been changed and confirmed, and one of my accounts was blocked and 24 hours later closed due to violation of terms.

I am happy to inform, YOU CAN RECOVER your accounts.

like the article suggests, ABUSE@HOTMAIL.COM is a great place to inform of any issues involving accounts being hijacked. If your account has been CLOSED or BLOCKED, you may start the ACCOUNT RECOVERY FORM process, here is the link:

Windows Live account recovery
https://security.live.com/acsr.aspx

If your account's password recovery email has been changed, you may request a password recovery email reset consent, and your recovery emails will change status from APPROVED (in green letters) to LOST (in red letters). About 30 days later I was told I can re-enter my new password recovery emails. I yet need to fully resolve this issue for it has not been 30 days yet, this is the link.

Reset your password - Windows Live
https://account.live.com/ResetPassword.aspx

click on any of the options that best suits your problem then a sub menu will open and then click on RESET PASSWORD, then fallow the last steps.

Lastly you may also contact SUPPORT@HOTMAIL.COM for any other unresolved issues. If you have the patients you may use the Live Support Forums, but let me warn you, you could spend many days trying to resolve this issues and not be getting the proper help. I found the Live Moderators answers to be copied and pasted and lacked personal touch.

THE LAST THING I RECOMMEND IS:
download Microsoft Safety Scanner, it's a free anti-virus software not meant to be used as your main anti-virus and it must be renewed every 10 days. The list of viruses are up dated every day so it's always up to date with the most current viruses, malware, worms, and whatnot. Here is the link:

Microsoft Safety Scanner
http://www.microsoft.com/security/scanner/en-us/default.aspx


------------------------------

I suspected my accounts were compromised due to Craiglist, so I created an account last week just for Craiglist. I have replied to ads only 3 days since I created this account and, I have received only a handful of replies. Today I spent an hour reading and replying to ads on Craiglist, and later in the day I log in to check for any replies. To my expected surprise, my account was Closed due to violation of the terms.

I suspect Craiglist is a potential culprit in people losing their accounts, amongst other possible ways of course, for being hijacked. However Craiglist is a high risk factor for spammers hijacking email accounts.

Good luck to all

Help is all a link away thanks to this post. If only Windows Live Team could do the same.

Windows Live account recovery
https://security.live.com/acsr.aspx

Reset your password - Windows Live
https://account.live.com/ResetPassword.aspx

Microsoft Safety Scanner
http://www.microsoft.com/security/scanner/en-us/default.aspx

999

Jed
September 16, 2011 1:29 PM

I have also tried to get my Hotmail account back. It was closed for suspicious activity. It's only used for online purchases. The questionaire they want filled out asks for mobile phone number to send a code for unlocking. Also a CC number which is not going to happen since I use none of their services that require a CC. If a hacker can gain control of their server to get into my account, why would I want to leave a CC number?

thahir
October 24, 2011 3:17 AM

sir.

i hav one qustion about hotmail..i have one hotmail..when i try to open i got this msg "Your account has been blocked"...they required mi mobile number for verification.i sent mobile number but i didnt receive any msg from hotmail team...how can i solve this problm ? plz help me

This article discusses recovery options for the various ways that Hotmail accounts can be lost or compromised and I believe it applies here: What are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options?

Leo
25-Oct-2011
bob
October 27, 2011 2:17 PM

i have had my acc blocked because hotmail is not a safe site when somebody can hack my acc and use it i also have lost valuable records and pics and im pissed off with hotmail who cant even block the span and junk thet are supposed too

James
February 10, 2012 12:55 PM

Good article. This just happened to me so I was searching for more information, Thanks!

I think its a scam to get your Phone and CC number...

Try signing up fora new account... You cant without a cell Phone number... Ah.. I doubt my account was ever hacked and used to violate the terms of service. hotmail is just my junk email account.

I think they are lying to me and holding my junk mail hostage to get my information! Keep it. I use Ubuntu because I don’t trust Microsoft. Ubuntu is a free secure OS. You can even edit PDF documents, free!

I am very careful with my passwords. If they can not keep the hackers out why would I give them my Phone or CC number?

Lori
June 22, 2012 11:31 AM

Same thing happened to me two days ago. My sympatico account was blocked for no wrong reason that I am aware of. When trying to get it back I was re directed to receiving a link to another email account. Two were listed, same name as mine ex. abc@sympatico.ca >>abc@cogeco.ca or abc@live.ca. I had a cogeco account before but am now with Bell (sympatico) I tried the Windows live account.
I did not remember having a Live account but set about trying to open it to get the password recovery link to my sympatico account. I used the same security answers I use for my sympatico account and was able to access the live account. Did the link reset and got my sympatico account back.
PROBLEM is the live account was not mine, showed created by someone else. I managed to contact that person (email to herself was in folder) and she was shocked I got into her account. I have changed the password to the Live account and do not want to give it back to the person in case she can hack my sympatico, she said she only used it for casual emails and it showed limited usage.
Contacted my Bell server and after several hours all links that I am aware of connecting the two accounts was removed re no listing of other emails for recovery or phone numbers.
Bell tells me it must be a glitch in the system, they say my main account that was locked was not hacked and had no idea why it was locked.
How did this happen, any ideas?
If I give the account back to the person will she be able to gain access to my account with a password recovery like I did to hers?
I have had numerous virus, malware scans done on my pc and it shows nothing( Norton, Spybot, Kaspersy & Bell), including root ones suggesting my pc is safe. Have had no indication anything is wrong.
Thinking I should stop using my sympatico account and create a new one. If I do that then I will create same name at Live and Hotmail.
Wish hotmail/live/sympatico was like yahoo where you can see traffic to your account and pinpoint if being hacked.
Any ideas, comments, suggestions as to what happened and why?

robert
June 22, 2012 12:18 PM

my hotmail account is blocked and didnt give me a reason i did nothing wrong possible hackers

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.