Help my mom get her Gmail back
December 8, 2014 7:40 AM   Subscribe

My mother's Google account was recently broken into by phishers. They changed her password and phone number. In her attempts to recover her account, she made several major mistakes early on and it now seems like she may not be able to recover the account via the tools provided by Google. All of her financial information is in this account, and she's going a little nuts.

After a suspicious login a little over a week ago, which my mom did not respond to at the time, the phishers changed her password and phone number on her account, side-stepping the 2-step authentication. They also got into her Facebook account that used the same password, but that was able to be recovered fairly easily. They then sent out a phishing email to all of her contacts that she was stuck in a foreign country and needed money.

I and many of her contacts reported the email back to Google. She tried to go through the password recovery, but because the phishers had changed the phone number without her realizing, she wasn't able to authenticate that recovery. She's subsequently gone through requests including them asking when she started her account (she was off by 8 years...) and what labels were on her Gmail, several of which were inaccurate. On her 5th attempt last night, they gave her 250 characters to try to explain everything, and after forwarding me her explanation I'm not optimistic. She's frustrated, to say the least.

Has anyone had success in this arena? Is it possible somehow to get a human being on a phone?
posted by gregoryg to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It will probably not be possible to get anybody on the phone. Gmail is a free service used by millions upon millions of people, and it would be prohibitive for Google to provide one-on-one customer service.

The absolute best thing that you/your mom can do right now is to contact all of her banks, change her passwords, and notify them of potential identity theft. This needs to happen right now.

After the banks, she should start changing passwords at other websites. Ask her if she uses the same password at other sites. Everything needs to be changed.
posted by number9dream at 7:59 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yup, already have all the identity theft aspect covered, really just looking to get the Google account back at this point.
posted by gregoryg at 8:03 AM on December 8, 2014

Best answer: It definitely is possible to talk to someone on the phone. I went through a similar situation just a couple months ago. The phone number came up after trying and trying to answer those (ridiculous) questions. (No, I don't remember when I opened this email account, or who was my internet provider all those years ago, etc.). The phone number popped up somewhere deep, after not answering enough questions correctly (a few times).

But, beware, the person on the phone is going to ask very similar questions.
posted by zyxwvut at 8:05 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

*(Actually, now that I think about it, it might have been an option to have a Google representative call me - by entering my phone number after failing the quiz too many times. But either way, I definitely talked on the phone and got my situation resolved.)
posted by zyxwvut at 8:21 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: From an anonymous commenter:
Hi, I recently went through this with a Gmail account that was hijacked by somebody who was able to guess the password. Multiple recovery attempts got me nowhere. I finally ended up posting to the Gmail help forums ( and one of the volunteer answerers there, who apparently has contacts on the inside at Google, was able to get them to take a closer look at my case. I would suggest going there and trying to provide as much information as you can about the situation and your recovery attempts; it's probably the closest you can get to live customer service. I would also suggest that if you do regain control of the account, the FIRST thing to do is go down to "details" at the bottom of the page, click that, and log out of all other devices. If a hacker is still logged in they can take the account right back even after you've gone through the recovery process. Good luck!
posted by restless_nomad at 9:37 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: According to, this is the best phone number to reach Google customer service: Call 650-253-0000, and press 5, 3, then 0 to talk to a person.

But Get Human says that the best way overall to reach Google customer service is their Facebook page:

Finally, here are all the ways to contact Google, ranked by customers for speed and quality. (Scroll down to the middle of the page.)

Good luck to your mom!
posted by virago at 9:37 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

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