Got a new device on your holiday wish list? Hoping for a new computer this year? You remember all your online account passwords right? It might seem like a silly question, especially while you’re captivated by the coolness of a new toy. Many of us overlook that our devices save passwords, which means we aren’t always typing them in. It might be very convenient, but when it comes time to login on that new device, you may find yourself scratching your head trying to remember it. Time to use the password reset or account recovery feature so you can get back into Facebook, Google, or any number of other apps or websites. You click the link expecting to be asked a simple security question, like your dog’s name or the town you grew up in, only to discover it wants to email you a password reset link. Regrettably, the email address it displays hasn’t been used by you in years. You see an option to have a code texted to your phone – and discover it lists an old phone number you don’t have anymore. You can’t reset your password, now how will you access your account?
This scenario actually happened to not one, but TWO friends of mine on the same day. Each got a new phone, but didn’t know their passwords to Facebook or their email accounts. Unfortunately the password reset options presented to them offered no help, as they either didn’t know the passwords to their email or had new phone numbers. They eventually did gain access to their accounts, but it was more than a day without Facebook….I think one of them is still in mild shock.
Keep your account recovery options up to date
Maintaining online account security options and updating password recovery information is a simple task, but it’s often overlooked. It’s very important to review and update your account information, and it should be reviewed every 6 months. Each site differs slightly in the specific steps, but usually your account recovery options are listed under “Account”, “Settings” or “Profile”. Looks for these when you are logged into the site. Once you find the area for account recovery, make sure the email addresses listed are current, and update any that aren’t. Be sure your cell phone number is accurate, including area codes. If other account recovery options are available, update those with proper information as well.
Keep at least two recovery options with every online account
It may not be possible with all of them, but some online account settings allow multiple recovery email addresses, or allow a combination of email and phone number. With Facebook, as an example, you can enter multiple email addresses in your account settings. Google allows a recovery email address as well as a cell phone. Either of these can be used to reset your password should you lose access to your account.
Ensure your new device is fully setup before giving up your old one
If you’ve forgotten your password, and have outdated account recovery options, your old device may be the only way you can reset it. If you are still logged in on your old device or computer, update your account recovery options there. After doing this, you can try and reset your password.
If all else fails, contact tech support
Usually a last resort, contacting technical support for the online service you are using may be the only option left. It’s important to realize they may need you to prove your identity, so it might be necessary to upload a picture of your ID or some other form of identification. To be certain you’re dealing with the actual provider of your service, initiate all account recovery steps directly from their website, and navigate to their support or contact information. Sometimes using a search engine to find support can lead you to third parties who are all too eager to help – for a fee.
The potential for account hacking is another reason why keeping your account recovery options current is important. If a hacker gains access to your account and resets your password, you’ll need to follow the password reset steps in order to get back into your account.