Google is the search giant of the web. But that only scratches the surface, because Google has occupied many of people's digital lives, beyond just Google.com.
Going through all of Google's products list, it's clear that Google Search is just a miniscule of what Google has to offer.
Beyond just a search engine, Google has Android as the most popular mobile operating system, YouTube as the most trafficked video-streaming platform, Chrome as the most widely-used web browser, an array of communication products, office and business apps, cloud and storage solutions, AI, digital wallet and many many more.
If you have a Google account tied to them, they are linked through just three: your email and its password, and your phone number.
For all Google users, there are only a few things in life that is more frustrating than getting locked out of Google.
Knowing how deep Google is involved in people everyday digital lives, with users relying its Gmail to send and receive messages, use Google Drive for storage, Google Calendar for appointment, Google Photos to achieve media and so forth, getting locked out of your Google account can be your worst nightmare.
Losing your Google account could make you lose contact with your loved ones, business contacts and clients, access appointments, and miss things related to your use of Google products and services, or even access to third-party services you’re subscribed to.
But before blaming on yourself, or a hacker, or Google, it's best to know why you can get locked out of Google, despite knowing your user login credential.
First and foremost, Google has very strict measures in place to ensure that its products and services operate according to its policies, and users obeying its Terms of Services. If there’s anything unusual or whenever it detects suspicious activity on your account, Google can quickly lock you out of your account so you cannot access any of its products or services.
Google may even suspend your account temporarily in order to protect it from abuse or fraud.
Google in suspending an account can last from anywhere between a minute to 24 hours, or even 30 to 40 hours depending on the type of activity detected by the system.
These activities include, and not limited to:
- Sending a large number of emails that go undelivered.
- Receiving, downloading, or deleting large amounts of emails within a short span of time.
- Using your Google account from multiple locations or devices.
- Inbox reloading issues when using your account on a web browser.
- Giving access to file-storage, file-sharing, browser extensions, email analytics services, or third-party software that logs automatically into your account, which causes Google to think of it as misleading activity without your knowledge.
- Incorrectly signing into your Google account using the wrong password too many times.
The only account recovery option Google provides starts at https://accounts.google.com/signin/recovery. This page covers lost passwords, compromised accounts, "suspicious activity" blocks and other similar cases.
On a Google Help Support page, Google has listed a number of reasons why users may not be able to log in into their account.
Google also has a list of things users should do to avoid getting locked of Google.
At the end, as previously mentioned, the only data Google has on you that allows you to log in, is your username/email and password combination.
And if you lost any of that, the next things that Google have to recognize you as the real owner of your account (and not some hacker trying to hack into your account), is your phone number, the last password you can recall, the recovery email address you stored on Google, the date you created your account, and so other more.
But if you have turned on two-step verification on your Google account, recovering it is more difficult.
Two-step verification adds another layer of protection for your Google account. With it, Google needs more than your password, as it requires you to also enter another code, or do an action to log in into your account.
Getting into your two-step verification-protected Google account, you need to enter a code via the default method - email or SMS - that you originally configured. If you cannot provide the details, there is the 'Try another way to sign in' link you can click, where Google will list all the options that you have previously configured to your account.
And if still cannot login, there is the last desperate option called 'Ask Google for help getting back into your account'.
Clicking on this link will list even more options.
You should also know that the whole process of recovery should be easier and more likely to succeed if done from a computer or a device recently used to access that account. If at all possible, attempt recovery using that same computer/device, giving preference to a computer/laptop over a mobile device.
For G Suite users, the only way to reset your password and gain back access to your account is by contacting the Google Apps administrator for the domain.
Avoid Getting Into The Mess In The First Place
It should be noted that Google has dozens of potential questions and tasks it may as you to do to prove ownership of your account, in case you lost your credentials. Most of the questions are based on pre-configured recovery options like an email address or phone number.
If these are not available (never configured, have gone out-of-date, changed by a hacker) the number of questions available should be very limited.
You may still receive the "Google couldn't verify..." message, or be asked additional questions.
if you can’t correctly answer enough of the questions to prove ownership of the account, Google will never let you in. Without enough information about you, you're just an unauthorized user to that account in Google's eyes. But as long as you can provide all the information you know about your account that Google asks, the process should work for most people.
While Google provides all it can to help you recover your account, the best thing is certainly to avoid getting into this mess in the first place. While Google provides the many ways possible for you to get back, and even has a support page where you can ask questions and get answers from other Google users or even from Google staff, there is still no single clear system, if ever you ever get locked out of your account.
In the end, if you don't have some precautions in place, you will be left you out in the cold with little to no possibility of getting help, especially if you no means to reach Google personally.
There are ways to prevent this problem from ever happening, but it means not leaving anything out, especially when it comes to login credentials.
- Use password manager to keep your login credentials safe and secure.
- Use Google Authenticator as your second authentication method.
- Update your recovery phone number and email address.
- Set up more ways for you to login and prove that you own your account. This can include setting up phone prompts, storing backup codes to get into your account, and setting up security keys.
- Know when you create your Google account, and who are your most frequently contacted contacts.