Disclaimer: More rant than blog. Though there are valuable travel tips and my new contact email at the end!
Granted, a traveler’s worst nightmare would probably be more along the lines of being detained in Egypt, or locked up and deported from Indonesia, however for THIS traveler, blocking and continuing to deny access to my email account ranks pretty highly with one of the worst things which could possibly happen abroad.
With flight and hotel confirmations, itinerary information, thousands of contacts, vouchers for current competitions on my site, and ongoing conversation threads with clients and tourism boards – losing it all has been a pretty big nightmare.
A Traveler’s Worst Nightmare: Blocked From Email Communication
As with all great stories, this one begins in Bolivia. Two weeks ago at exactly 7.14am, I sent a quick email home from La Paz airport updating them on my travels. As inconceivable as this concept is, later that afternoon I attempted to open my email from Chile.
Again?! Did I mention Outlook blocked access to my email 3 weeks ago while I was traveling through Peru? Though in that instance, I filled in their online verification form with information about my account and had access back within 24 hours.
Not this time! For reasons that I cannot fathom, this time, the same information which gave me access to my account 3 weeks earlier was denied, and verification failed. I completed so many verification attempts over the course of a week that I finally received an email recommending I move on and open another account.
“Microsoft takes your privacy seriously”. So seriously that it’s impossible to recover access to your own accounts.
From excessive bitching and complaining about this situation across social media, it turns out a number of people have been recently experiencing issues with outlook blocking their account.
Next step: Chat! To this day, I still don’t understand the point of Microsoft chat representatives, all of whom wasted multiple hours of my time only to tell me the online verification was the only way to regain access, or alternatively I could file a request for support from an Escalation Agent. Did that. They pointed me to the online verification form.
After providing the Escalation Agent with an incredibly detailed description of the problem (online verification had failed and I am currently traveling so phone verification is out), describing the urgency of the issue (all of my business emails are forwarded here and I have flight and hotel confirmations stored which I need for my current travels), and providing bucket loads of accurate information about the account including old passwords, the current password, the date I last changed my password, current and previous personal information, recent contacts I have sent emails to, the content of those emails, the subject lines of those emails, as well as folders within the account, I waited 3 days for an automatic reply directing me to fill out their online verification form.
If that wasn’t frustrating enough, after politely confirming that online verification had failed, I waited another 3 days for an email recommending I move on and create a new account.
The 72 hour waiting period would have not been an issue if they hadn’t continued to offer me a response within 24 hours.
No, sorry, I do not understand that the only way to regain access to my account is to prove ownership by submitting a validation request. WHAT IS YOUR DEPARTMENT FOR OTHERWISE????!!!
Apparently just to waste excessive amounts of my time and rub salt in my wounds.
And, dear Rose, you obviously don’t understand how important it is for me to recover my Microsoft account, because as a travel blogger, this account is an integral part of how I generate income.
It normally stresses me out if I don’t reply to an email within 48 hours (I generally strive for a very clean inbox!), and it kills me that not responding to business emails is probably making me look incredibly unprofessional.
My only consolation is that with the advent of social media, I can fairly easily get the word out that my email access has been blocked – though not to my professional contacts.
There do, however, remain a few rare species of human being out there who go about their day to day lives without touching social media – like my father, my youngest sister and my grandparents. Probably would have been a good idea to have kept an offline record of their contacts. Especially since at this point it seems like I’m never regaining account access.
Never in my life have I heard of someone losing complete access to their email. The situation to me is absurd. After taking to twitter I thought I got a little further – the twitter team @MicrosoftHelps acknowledged that I had 16 years worth of emails, documents and information in my account and forwarded my situation to a high level Escalation Agent.
The twitter team have been the only semi helpful contact throughout this whole ordeal. I promptly received an email from Microsoft Support requesting a reply with additional information for a manual verification.
That was 4 days ago, and this morning (after tweeting that I was still awaiting a response) I received a completely new email from Microsoft Escalations Support, not acknowledging my previous reply, requesting even further information like my Xbox console ID and SkyDrive private files – which would be great … if I owned an Xbox or had ever purposely stored anything on SkyDrive.
I give the team on twitter immense credit for their timely responses and actual attempts to resolve customer issues. It’s just a shame that they don’t have the same power as an Escalation Agent. Because they’re the only department who (a) seems to care; and (b) seems to know what the hell is going on.
- Admittedly (or so I’m told), I should have moved away from hotmail years ago. However Outlook had never given me a reason to move away from the account I have held since the late 1990’s.
- Travel with a printed copy of your itinerary, including flight and hotel booking confirmations. While we did this partially, apparently I got lazy towards the end and didn’t print out confirmations for the last leg of our trip. Which of course was the leg we needed! Thankfully there hasn’t been an issue with any of our hotel bookings…yet.
- From here forth I will be setting up automatic forwarding on my email account, so that in the instance my email goes down, I can access a backup email which holds all previous contacts, files, confirmations and correspondence.
- If you have an issue which is not being resolved, attempt to resolve it by contacting the company on twitter. Twitter is a public line, and everyone tries their darndest in each company to keep people happy as it in the public eye.
- Hotmail/Outlook does not offer telephone support. In my desperation to find a resolution I googled phone numbers for Microsoft support and ended up speaking with a gentleman from India who tried to make me grant him remote access to my computer in order to unlock my account. Unlikely. Microsoft will NEVER ask you to access your computer. This is a scam.
A reader of this post has however, had luck in calling the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk (as of March 2020), whose number is 1-800-936-5900. The person there was able to refer her to the account reinstatement form.
- Don’t use hotmail/outlook if you travel. Use gmail instead.
- If you’re connecting to your email while traveling, use a VPN service like Hotspot Shield. VPN services allow you to re-route your internet traffic through a server in your home country, so as far as email providers are concerned, you’ve tricked them into thinking you haven’t left the country.
- Travel with your own portable WiFi hotspot. This is a great way to make sure you’re connecting from the same network regardless of your location, and it means your connection is always secure. We use TEP Wireless for portable travel wifi; it’s fast and reliable, and the best way to enjoy unlimited internet (on up to five devices at a time) seamlessly between countries.
24 hours after this post went live my email was recovered and has now been successfully migrated to Gmail. It’s a wonder what a public statement can achieve! A huge thankyou to everyone for your continued support.
Update: A WEEK LATER…
Blocked again, this time in Iceland. Apparently they still don’t understand the concept of travel. Thanking god I migrated everything over to Gmail. At least Gmail allows me to log in from anywhere around the world!
This article has since been sponsored by Hotspot Shield VPN, the app I wish I had been using to avoid this whole mess.