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Microsoft’s Windows Live Mail? No thanks.

July 1, 2012

A friend of mine called me a couple of days ago in distress.  She had been hit with a phishing email to her live.co.uk email account.  You see a friend of hers is expecting a baby and an email came from her friends  address with a subject of “baby pictures”.  So excited was she about seeing these pictures, she clicked the link and entered her live account details in the boxes displayed on the screen without a thought.

About a millisecond later her account was churning out SPAM email to all of her friends in her address book.  Quickly she changed the account password but shortly afterwards her account was shut down by Microsoft.

Now you would think getting an account re-activated by Microsoft would be simple, right?

Wrong.

Unfortunately when you go through the re-activation process it wants to send an email to your “secondary email account” with a re-activation link.  Remember that secondary email account?  You set it when you created the account.  You probably used your work address as they don’t allow you to use another web based mail account (Microsoft, Google or Yahoo).

The problem my friend has is that the account she used at the time was for a job that she has since left.  Now, you can change the email address you want to use as your secondary account at any time, you just need to log into your active account to do this.

If your account isn’t active you are stuck in a “Catch 22” situation.  You can’t re-activate your account without entering a new secondary email address.  You can’t enter a new secondary email account without re-activating your account.

Basically you are up the proverbial creek without a padel.

To try and assist I sent an email to Microsoft’s abuse email account asking for them to assist.  The initial response was as follows:

“Hello,

After we have completed a thorough investigation, we have taken the appropriate level action based on the account and violation related to the account.

To prevent further distribution of unwanted e-mails from name-of-friend@live.co.uk account, we need to temporarily close the account. The account owner can recover the account anytime by proving their account ownership using the Account Password Recovery page below: https://account.live.com/resetpassword.aspx

Sincerely,

Name of Microsoft employee
Support Specialist
Windows Live Support Team”

Not much use really.  I tried again as they obviously didn’t read my request correctly.  In came a second response…

“Hello,

Thank you for contacting Windows Live Customer Service.

After reviewing the information you provided and looking at your account details, I have determined that the Windows Live ID Moderators can best address your concern. They are experts in your field of inquiry and would be in a better position to address your concern.

You may post your concern through the following link:

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windowslive/forum/liveid-signin

Sincerely,

Name of Microsoft employee

Support Specialist

Windows Live Support Team”

This is basically the Microsoft equivalent of being sent to a Siberian Gulag.  The forum referenced is a barren, desolate place filled with people with the same problem who have been suffering without the basic human right that is email for months.

I tried again, sending another email demanding that my support ticket be passed to a team leader.  This has been totally ignored by Microsoft support thus far.

Now if you are reading this entry hoping for a happy ending because you are suffering the same issue I am afraid you are in for a disappointment.  My friends email account is still doing hard labour in a Siberian Gulag and she is currently looking at creating a new account.

Having to set up a new account is a huge amount of hassle.  Not only have you lost all of your emails but gone is your contact list and probably your calendar as well.  And lets not even begin to think about all of the web sites you have used the address for (banks, utility bills, on-line purchasing..the list is endless).

I am VERY annoyed that Microsoft have not been able to resolve my friends problem.  I am VERY ANNOYED by the fact that if Microsoft’s anti-spam and security systems were up-to scratch she wouldn’t have received the email in the first place.  I am also TOTALLY ANNOYED that because the account is a “free account” Microsoft feel it is an acceptable practice to send you to a forum that won’t resolve your issue and then totally ignore any future requests.

But is a free email account really “free”?  Facebook just floated for $100 billion based purely on revenue generated (and expected future revenue) from advertising sent to you while you are on the site.  They say every Facebook account is worth $4 in advertising revenue.

It’s no wonder to me that Microsoft’s Live division is a loss maker, with the popularity of Google’s Android and mail platform I don’t see that changing any time soon.  Even Facebook have joined the email party giving people even more choice.

Personally I stopped actively using “Hotmail” as it was once marketed years ago and switched to Google’s mail service and have found it’s anti-spam to be superb (they even sell a cloud based corporate version under the Postini brand name).  I do not, however, have an idea of what Google’s re-activation policy is but I will be checking both my Google Mail account and my old Hotmail account (which I still use to access my Microsoft Technet subscription) security settings as soon as I have finished this blog.

Microsoft really do need to improve the re-activation process of it’s Live account.  I noted when I locked myself out of Facebook one time I could get back in by identifying pictures of my friends.  There must be a better method for Microsoft to allow people back into a locked out account?  Also, my guess would be that if my friend had upgraded to a paid account that the level of support would be better and a two-tier level of support does not sit well with me at all.

If anything positive does come from all of this suffering from my friend perhaps that will be in the form of the hits on my site.  You see I am just about to send a link to this post to the two Microsoft engineers who didn’t manage to resolve the issue; if they click on the link I will be sure to let you know.

C

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