How do I recover an email address I lost when my phone was stolen?

Guardian Technology 31 Jan 2019 08:00
Tay’s been shut out of his inbox after his phone was stolen, and getting access to his email account could be tricky. This is how you do it. Photograph: Epoxydude/Getty Images/fStop

Somebody stole my phone and changed my email password. I’ve tried to recover it, but I don’t have the phone number linked to my account because my phone was stolen. What should I do? Tay

First, recover your phone number, which is much more important than the phone.

When a phone is either lost or stolen, you should immediately contact your mobile network provider to tell them what’s happened. They should then suspend the current sim and send you a replacement sim with the same phone number. This service should be free but sometimes incurs a nominal charge. It won’t get your phone back, but it will make it harder for the thief to log on to your accounts and change your passwords.

Some network providers can also block your handset’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number. This makes it harder for the thief to use your phone with a different sim.

When I lost my phone in November – I left it on a plane in Kuala Lumpur – I phoned O2 but couldn’t pass the recovery tests, which included providing some numbers I’d dialled in the past three months. Being 6,500 miles from home, I couldn’t look up the phone number of my window cleaner, whose surname I couldn’t remember.

If you really want to be able to recover a mailbox, you need at least three ways to verify your account, on top of any security questions. For a start, you must have an alternative email address, and two is better. You should also have a mobile phone number, and possibly a landline number. All of these have to work, and you have to keep them all updated. It’s extra work, but it’s better than losing access to your main mailbox.

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