Claiming to have more than 360 million users in 2010, Microsoft's Hotmail is the most popular free email service in the world. Spammers targeting Hotmail accounts may attempt to use your address to send spam or viruses without being caught. If this happens to you and Microsoft blocks your account, you can take steps to recover it rather than registering for a new email address.
Hotmail allows its users to report spam messages by clicking the "Junk" button in the message. Non-Hotmail members can report messages as spam by forwarding the message to email@example.com. Similarly, email recipients can report cases of impersonation to firstname.lastname@example.org if they believe someone has gained unauthorized access to your email address. If someone reports your account as a source of spam, Microsoft can block access to it to stop the spam. However, this prevents both you and the spammer from accessing any content on your Hotmail account. You may see the following message when you sign in: “It looks like this inbox has been blocked. To fix this problem, contact customer support.”
Hotmail's popularity means many email accounts are available to be compromised. Internet security company Commtouch stated in an October 2011 report that 30 percent of Hotmail spam came from compromised accounts, rather than phony accounts that exist solely for the purpose of spamming. Because Hotmail is a trusted website, other email servers include its Internet protocol address -- an identifying number -- on "safe" email lists. It's much more difficult for email servers to weed out spam using the common IP technology when it originates from a Hotmail account.
As of 2011, Microsoft provides an account recovery service if it blocks your account due to spam or someone accessed it without your permission. To begin the recovery process, you must fill out a form with your Hotmail or Windows Live ID, as well as an alternative email address. Microsoft then requests identifying information such as your location and birth date. The form also asks for the answer to your secret question, a list of contacts in your address book and recent subjects of emails you may have sent. After you submit this form to Microsoft, the company will contact you about recovering your Hotmail account.
A few steps will minimize the chances of someone accessing your Hotmail account without permission, and make it easier to reclaim your account if necessary. The Windows Live Solution Center suggests creating unique, complex passwords for all your accounts, using numbers and characters, and changing them frequently. Microsoft also provides measures to secure your Hotmail account, such as adding another email address, a mobile phone number and a trusted computer to your profile. This "Password reset information" enables Microsoft to verify your identity as the rightful owner of an account and to send you information to reset your password if it becomes lost.
- Windows Live Help: Configuring Your Password Reset Information
- BBC News: Microsoft Hotmail Upgrade Targets Gmail and Yahoo
- Windows Live Help: How to Report Abuse or Spam in Windows Live Hotmail
- Windows Live Help: It Looks Like This Inbox Has Been Blocked
- Windows Live Help: Important Security Information To Know
- Commtouch: The State of Hacked Accounts