So, let’s talk about passwords. According to Wikipedia, “A password is a word or string of characters used for user authentication to prove identity or access approval to gain access to a resource, which is to be kept secret from those not allowed access.” If you read this at a slower tempo 2 or 3 times, it might start to make sense. Wikipedia also states that “The use of passwords is known to be ancient.”
Do you remember when the ‘secret password’ was a single word that you and your friends agreed to use to gain access to your tree house, or your private clubhouse? Easier times, for sure. Sometimes the password wasn’t a word at all. A secret knock on the door, a specific vocal noise, or a combination of the two would allow you and your friends to know whether or not to let a person into your club.
Now the whole reason I have for bringing up this subject in the first place is that I recently spent about 10 days without access to my Gmail account. Looking back, I really have no idea how this mess started, but, certainly, it couldn’t have been “COE,” you know, –“computer operator error!” I know this because I was still getting my email on my iPhone and my iPad. So when my desktop screen popped up with “First, let’s verify who you are,” I thought it would be a simple fix. I typed in my password. “Wrong password,” computer said! I typed it in again. making sure that I had the spelling and the ‘caps’ or ‘no caps’ correct. Computer responded the same……..’wrong password!’
Just below the line where you are supposed to enter your password, there is a place to click for “forgot password.” I clicked it. New message appeared: “First, let’s verify who you are,” computer said. “Ok,” I thought, and clicked to go to the next window. “Please enter the last password you remember using.” I did that. Next screen came up: “Please go to your Gmail on your iPhone and click ‘yes’ for the account recovery to begin. I did that! “Click on the ‘yes’ button so that “Google” will know which account you’re are trying to recover.” Again, I did that! Another new screen pops up…….. “Please enter a 9 digit phone number where we can send a code to continue recovery of this account.” I did that! The code was sent to my iPhone, so when I received it, I entered it into the screen, waited a short bit, and another screen popped up. It was a short series of questions. Again, “type in the last password you remember.” Ok, done. Next screen, “What month and year did you create this account?” What!! Seriously!! Are you kidding!! I am a septuagenarian, for Pete’s sake! I don’t even remember what I created this morning for breakfast! How could Google expect me to remember when this account was created? OMG! (which I think is politically correct for WTF!)
After trying to skip this screen several times, which didn’t work, of course, I decided to just pick a random month and date, fill in the blank, and hope that this would convince computer to let me go on. Alas, no. The screen wouldn’t budge.
I’d like to interject here that the account I was trying to recover was my regular Gmail account. And, with Google being Google and all, it would seem like they would have access to that data………of when that email was set up. Why ask me? Clearly, this was not something my brain considered important enough data to keep in my current file.
After several attempts to ‘get in’ while trying numerous combinations of month and year options, that screen disappeared. “Success,” I thought. But, again, no. A new screen popped up with a message that read, “We’re sorry, but we couldn’t verify your identity and there have been too many attempts to log in. We need to take this under investigation, and someone will get back to you within 2 to 3 days! Also, Please enter another email where we can contact you with updates on the progress of your request.”
Egad! What?! Another e-mail! I don’t have another e-mail! I considered this request for a moment, then realized that I do have an e-mail at the college where I am an adjunct instructor. Maybe I could use that one. So, I entered it. Google says they have sent me a 6-digit code to that address that I should now enter into the space on the next screen. Went to my college e-mail. No 6-digit code from Google. That’s because it most likely went into the college spam folder. I am only an adjunct instructor – the e-mails go through the campus library, so I couldn’t get to that 6-digit code anywhere. I have no access to the college e-mail spam!
Still hoping to solve this dilemma, I decided to create another Gmail account to use for a ‘back-up’ where Google could send another code. I did that. Of course, I had to come up with a password for the new back-up email account, but, this actually worked and I got the elusive 6-digit code. I went back to that screen request, filled it in, and felt like I had make a little progress.
Apparently, I had made a little progress because a new screen popped up and said: “Unfortunately, we cannot verify your identity. We will take this request under review, and someone will get back to you within 1 – 3 days!” AAARRRRGGG!
So, now I have 2 e-mail addresses. Both Gmail. Actually, I have 3 e-mails if you count my college email. However, I really needed to get back into my regular Gmail account because it is the one that had all the emails on it. I waited a couple of hours, checked on the progress of my request……still nothing.
I decided to wait a day and then check again on the progress of my request. Surprise! There was a message from Google that my account had been recovered and that I should use this message to change my password and all would be ok. Now, if you think this sounded too good to be true, it was!
I started to fill out the form to change my password and I noticed that Google had put my new Gmail account on the request. Oh, no! I didn’t need to change this account’s password. This is the 2nd Gmail account that I had set up for a ‘back-up’ email. It was working fine – until now – and it wasn’t even a day old yet!
There happens to be an ‘additional comments’ box on the account recovery form that asks for any additional information that might help Google recover the account. So, I clicked on that box and explained that they (Google) had listed the wrong account to recover. I listed both of my accounts, highlighted the original G-mail that I was trying to recover, and sent the message back.
Another day passed……..now I couldn’t get in to either account! Even though I was still receiving emails from my original account on my phone and i-Pad, I was still un-verifiable to Google. I decided to send a message to them with my phone number and a request to please call me to get this figured out. Now the computer screen popped up with a new message: “We’re sorry, but we are going to have to investigate this account. Someone will get back to you in 2 to 3 DAYS!”
So, during those next 2 to 3 days, I tried numerous times to access either of my accounts, but no luck. Was I ever going to see my original Gmail account again?, I wondered.
I decided to wait till the next day, try again, and, this time, I would create a new ‘back-up’ e-mail on Yahoo! Google surely wouldn’t get this one mixed up with my original. I did that! And it worked up to getting that access code from another email. Ah, progress! I was hopeful! The access code was accepted and a new message popped up from Google. It was the password change form to get back access to my recovered account. The only problem this time was that Google made another mistake by entering my Gmail address wrong. They had entered my original Gmail except they left out the ‘dot’. So now, when I tried to change my password on their form, again they said they couldn’t verify who I am. (At this point, I took the opportunity to write a few more comments in the additional comments box.)
Another couple of days passed. Still no response from Google for either of my Gmail accounts. In the meantime, I was scrolling through some stuff on my phone and in ‘Settings,’ I noticed a picture of a little key just above the ‘contacts’ icon. Since I hadn’t seen that ‘key’ icon before, I figured it must have showed up from the last update. So, I clicked on it! Aha! A password keeper! On my phone! Oh, my……..why didn’t I notice this several days ago?
I looked for the Gmail address password, and, sure enough, there it was. A series of numbers, letters in both cases, and some punctuation marks. The whole password was a string of about 25 bits that I had never seen before. Where did that come from? And, how is it that my phone thinks that is my password for my Gmail account?
I decided to try and access my original Gmail again. This time, when the computer asked for my password, I would enter this string of stuff and see what happens. My computer screen popped up the message asking for my password. I entered this long one. A moment later, I was into my original Gmail account and there was a message asking if I wanted to change my password.
I sat there in disbelief for a few minutes. I was afraid to enter anything. It had been 6 days, 2 new e-mail accounts, and much frustration since I lost access, and I didn’t want to do anything that would send me back to the “we can’t verify who you are” page.
Fortunately, my friend and computer ‘tech chick’ was here helping me to solve this problem. We decided to go ahead and try to ‘change password’ for my original account. We filled out the form, entered a new password for ‘change password,’ and held our breath to see what would happen next.
It worked! It actually worked! We were amazed and greatly relieved. So, after 9 days, I had my original Gmail back. Had I never noticed that little key icon on my phone, I might still be lost in the land of the un-verifiable. Also, I now have a second Gmail account and a Yahoo account. Don’t know if I will keep all of these, but as of now, I am done messing with any e-mail accounts, any passwords, and I am going to suggest to Google that they develop a ‘tech help line’ with live tech support people specifically for folks over 60. So far, I still haven’t heard back from the Google investigation team as to whether or not I am verifiable. I wonder if I ever will…
Just a thought …