What would you do if you lost access to your Gmail account tomorrow?
This is how to set up a fool-proof Gmail email recovery plan!
If you lost access to your personal email address today, would you be able to recover it easily?
If your answer is: No, or I don’t know, maybe? … then this is a post you should read and take action on IMMEDIATELY.
Email addresses are to me, far more permanent than phone numbers or physical addresses. Maybe it’s the modern nomad in me, but an email address remains yours for life because it isn’t a physical item.
Yes, you can always move your telephone number from one service provider to another, but your email address is something you readily give out to others, and know will stay constant for the rest of your life because it presumably has your name in it which is not likely to change.
I am going to just talk about recovering Gmail addresses because I have done this with all of my important email addresses, but don’t let this discourage you in figuring out how to do the same with other providers.
ADD YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER
This is by far the easiest way to recover access to your Gmail address if it has been hacked. You just add your telephone number, and request that they text or call you a code to reset everything.
I am not a huge fan of this because my telephone number has changed every 2 years and I’ll be damned if I remember what I put there, but if you have had the same telephone number for a VERY LONG TIME, this might be the easiest option for you.
SET UP A SECONDARY EMAIL ADDRESS
This is what I’ve set up for myself. It is a bit more unwieldy and annoying for most folks, but more convenient for me in the sense that I don’t have to add a telephone number that will change, or I will forget.
There is a bit of maintenance to be done every 8 months or so, but for me, it’s worth it.
What you do, is set up another email address solely for the purpose of recovering your main email address.
You are never to use this recovery email address for ANY OTHER PURPOSE.
You can name it however you like. My method has been to do the following; if your email address is email@example.com, then you can make an email address that is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Generally speaking, most people do not put the word “recover” in their email addresses, and with the combination of that word (or any word you chose) with your name, it is a very high possibility that the email address will be available to use.
Don’t forget to put a solid password on it
I’d also recommend putting an extremely long, horrible password on this email account and storing that slip of written paper somewhere safe (not any where electronic where it might be scanned and used).
Sometimes, old school methods work, and I prefer paper for this particular task. Just don’t lose the paper. 😛
For instance, my passwords on these “recover” accounts are 30 characters long, with a mix of numbers, symbols and letters.
Yes, of course that can be cracked in just a matter of time if someone was really diligent in doing so, but who is going to take the time, and who will really know that you have that email address just to recover your other email addresses?
They’d just go to your main email@example.com email address and crack that if they can, rather than some empty email address.
You do not have to go as paranoid as I do, but since I write it down on a single piece of paper kept with all my important documents, I am not that concerned that I will forget it.
You need to refresh that account every 8 months
You also need to log into those “recover” accounts every 8 months so that they stay active, so pull out those pieces of paper ever so often.
(The real time is 9 months, but 8 months gives you ample time to be lazy.)
I have this listed in my iPod Touch as a “To Do” every 6 months because I am paranoid I will be SO lazy, I will forget to do it, or I am in the middle of a rather extended vacation which does not allow me to access my secure pieces of paper at home, which will end up in an deactivated, useless email address.
(I also try to remember to renew these email accounts before I go on a vacation longer than 2 months.)
IF NONE OF THE ABOVE APPEALS TO YOU…
Then you can just take the chance that you won’t get hacked and lose your entire archive of sensitive, important and/or sentimental emails, as well as your email address.
If that happens, you might have to end up calling GOOGLE (yes, REALLY!) and going through the painful process of trying to remember what the first email was you ever received in your account, and other “specific” pieces of information that are not readily available off the top of our minds so that they can be SURE you are really who you say you are.
Read: Calling Google to get your email account unhacked
Finally, at the very least, I can only plead with you to change your passwords at least every 6 months to once a year to minimize the risk of being hacked.
(I change all of my passwords every 6 months.)
Much like when your laptop dies unexpectedly and you were in the middle of working on a very important project that you did not save on backup disks, or you lose your smartphone (your lifeline), losing access to your hacked email address can be just as harrowing and nerve-wracking.