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Yahoo Mail: A dead hamster stole my e-mail

In the last 10 years, I've lived in three countries, and changed address over 10 times. Furthermore, the last time I had a pet was some 15 years ago and, heartless cow that I am, I can't remember its name. I do remember it was a brown hamster with enormous testicles, but that really doesn't help me right now.

commentary In the last 10 years, I've lived in three countries, and changed address over 10 times. Furthermore, the last time I had a pet was some 15 years ago and, heartless cow that I am, I can't remember its name. I do remember it was a brown hamster with enormous testicles, but that really doesn't help me right now.

I'm frantically trying to remember those 10 postcodes and that hamster's name to convince Yahoo to give me my mail account back. Someone hijacked my Web mail account last week, which I opened about 10 years ago, and changed the password, locking me out of my own account.

Now I'm trying to persuade Yahoo that I'm the rightful user of my account. Given the password's been changed by the hijacker, I have to provide them other information -- my postcode when I set up the account, for one thing. I set it up some time in 1997. Or was it 1998?

They also want to know my pet's name. When I set up the account, in the heady late '90s, I chose the secret question "what is your pet's name?". I didn't have a pet at the time, so why I chose that secret question is anyone's guess.

Equally anyone's guess: how (and why) someone hijacked the account. I've never answered a phishing e-mail, written my password down, told it to anyone, and my antivirus, anti-spyware and assorted security software have got my work and home PC locked down tighter than David Beckham's speedos.

Maybe a keylogger, I wondered, but if anyone was keylogging me, why would they choose to thieve a Yahoo e-mail account and not the online banking accounts I use on the same machines? I can only assume because they have discovered I'm a journalist, looked at my account balance and felt a little sorry for me. After all, half of nothing is still nothing, even to a hijacker.

I can only assume some creative malfeasant cracked my password. I'm almost impressed.

I tried to recover my password the traditional way but my best attempts to persuade Yahoo's Web form that I did know my own postcode and date of birth proved ineffective. I was pretty sure I could remember my own birthday, but if Yahoo says I can't, I'm not one to argue.

After discovering the hijack on Sunday night, I set about contacting Yahoo about the mishap. The bile-boiling annoyance of being locked out of my own Yahoo mail was compounded by its virginal reticence to actually provide any real-time contact details.

Thank you Yahoo for that two fingered salute to customer care.

After trying to register my displeasure with Yahoo, among its various account abuse options (has your Yahoo account developed a specific personality of its own and tried poking you in the throat with a cocktail stick? Has your venereal disease been caused by Yahoo Instant Messenger? That sort of thing) and not finding a link that helped, I gambled on "I gave my account information away to someone else and my account has been compromised".

I hadn't, but it was the closest available thing to "some bastard nicked my account and I'm verging on the psychotic after filling in all your interminable forms to get it back".

I tried contacting Yahoo Australia's press people, who were as helpful as they could be given the circumstances, to see if they could help. Yahoo Australia can't apparently deal with Yahoo UK and Ireland accounts. (Psst, let me help you guys out here -- if you need to swap information across geographic borders, you should try the Internet -- it can be quite useful for that sort of thing).

Yahoo UK asked me for my postcode and date of birth. I told them again. They told me it didn't match the information they had on file. I told them I knew that. They asked for my secret question and answer from when I registered the account. I told them I registered it 10 years ago and couldn't remember either the question or the answer. They told me the question was "what is the name of your pet?".

After days of e-mail exchanges I could feel myself tantalisingly close to getting my account back. If only I can remember the name of my pet.

The hamster. The large-groined hamster. The large-groined hamster called ... nope, I can't remember. All that stands between me my 10 years of e-mail and contacts is one dead, scrotally superior rodent.

Do you know this hamster?

And try as I might, the name escapes me. I called my parents. They couldn't remember either. We spent minutes of our lives that we will never get back pondering the name of the dead hamster. They suggested finding a picture of the hamster in question in case it had the name written on the back.

It didn't.

So I e-mailed a list of best guesses to Yahoo, but I doubt it will be enough. If it helps, Yahoo, that's a picture of the hamster, above.

I can even remember the postcode of the house the hamster was in. Can I have my e-mail back now please?

By the way, if any readers out there fancy guessing what this hamster might be called, there's 10 years of e-mail in it for you ...