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July 13

How AT&T locked me out of my Yahoo! & Flickr accounts

This is a story of how yesterday one company completely locked me out of another company’s accounts and services. Now neither company is taking the blame and are both stating “there is nothing we can do” and actually blaming me at times too. It’s a long story, so I have provided a great short TL;DR; version below:

Now this is the story all about how
my Flickr account got flipped, turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
I’ll tell you why my Yahoo! account password is bare

In west Yahoo! born and raised
On the Flickr is where I spent most of my days
Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool
And all shooting some photos outside of the school
When a couple of companies, they were up to no good
Started making trouble in my user accounts
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
And said “You’re moving with your friends over at 500px

Still here? Lets continue shall we?

The story starts 10 years ago when I graduated college I began work at what was then called SBC Ameritech. As part of working with them I signed up for their “SBC Yahoo! DSL” service at my new apartment as we were given a discount, and it was the best internet available where I lived. One feature of the account was that they’ll give you some free Yahoo! premium services along with your DSL service. In order to use this you have to basically “merge” the accounts. This is when, if I had a time machine, I’d tell myself “DO NOT DO IT!” just to avoid what happened yesterday. I merged them and thusly my account for my DSL line and my at that point my 3-4 year old Yahoo! account shared a password.

Fast forward to 4 years ago. SBC Ameritech is now known as AT&T (name change, company is “the same”) and I no longer work for them after going indie to develop iOS software in 2008. I cancelled my AT&T U-verse service and moved to Comcast for internet service because of their superior DOCSIS 3.0 technology. I was told AT&T would un-merge the Yahoo! and accounts as part of the cancellation process. But since I now only use my Yahoo! account for nothing other than to access my Flickr Pro account, I never checked into this at all. I also irresponsibly never changed it’s password either. I completely forgot about them being merged at one point, until yesterday…

Well as most of us know, it was revealed yesterday that Yahoo! had a data breach and about 500,000 usernames and passwords were leaked. So despite not being in the leaked password file, I figured it was a good time to change my password anyways. I go to do this, and Yahoo! sends me to to change my password for some reason. This is when I realize, my account is STILL LINKED to an account that is no longer valid on AT&T’s system. This is going to be a problem I thought, but I was WAY underestimating how much of a problem it would be.

I did some digging online, and I found a helpful post on the ATT Forums which detailed how to un-merge your accounts. The problem here is for step one I couldn’t actually log into AT&T’s website to do that step because my account is so old it wouldn’t let me in. So I called AT&T.

The rep I spoke to could actually reset my password, she gave me a new temporary password that AT&T’s website actually prompted me to change when I tried to log in. So the first concern of mine was solved, I had a new password that worked on my Yahoo! account. But that was as far as I could get on the AT&T account. It would not let me in so I could un-merge the accounts. She then transferred me to someone who could help me with the unmarking of the two accounts. The transfer failed after 15 minutes of waiting, I now heard a dial tone.

I decided it was enough for the day for now, and I’ll deal with un-merging another day. I then notice immediately that my new password, no longer works at all on Yahoo! as it did minutes earlier. Neither does my old password or the temporary password she had given me (I wrote them all down). So I call AT&T back after their Team Susan Twitter group, who reached out to me first, failed to reply back to me at all on the issue.

This agent not only didn’t know what Ameritech was, or how to spell it for the email address. I should have hung up and got someone else, but I didn’t. I told him I needed to reset the password and unlink it by deleting the account as detailed in the post on the ATT Forums. He told me he could not reset that password as it gave him some error, despite an agent earlier doing it, BUT he could delete the account for me which should un-merge it he told me. He deleted the account and then gave me a phone number to reach Yahoo! to finalize the un-merge. I called this number and was met with a rep who simply asked for my email and my phone number, and that someone would call me back in 15 minutes.

Three hours pass, and I hadn’t heard from Yahoo! I figured they and I were busy but I’d call that number back now that it’s been three hours. I called that number again and I realize that it never said Yahoo! and was just a generic messages and statements. I Googled the number, and found it was some scam “repair” service that is just collecting user info for who knows what purposes. So they now have my phone number and an old email address I can’t get into. GREAT! Thanks AT&T!

So I look up Yahoo!’s real number for the first time, which isn’t easy. I found it via Contact Help’s page on Yahoo!. I think any company that makes it THIS hard to contact support that you have to goto ANOTHER website to find it, should be avoided at all costs.

Yahoo! proved themselves RIGHT AWAY to not give a damn about me. The rep I got flat out right refused to help me because he didn’t “have the tools” to either reset my password or unlink my account and only AT&T did. I told them AT&T deleted my account they couldn’t either, he didn’t care. I asked to speak to his supervisor as someone at the company should be able to figure this issue out since it’s a account, not an AT&T account. He refused, I told him I’m a paying customer for Flickr Pro and I need access to that account. He said take it up with AT&T. I told him I want to cancel my services then, so he transferred me to billing.

The billing department rep was nice at first, she apologized for everything but declined to help me get into my accounts but would process my cancellation instead. Weird. So I told her I wanted a refund of my 2nd year of Flickr Pro which I purchased in August 2011 since I can’t get into my account. She pulled it up, but became extremely difficult when I couldn’t figure out what credit card I used to pay for it. I have an American Express, Discover and a VISA, she said none of those were used. She also added Flickr Pro is non refundable and that no one at Yahoo would process that refund for me, if I was even really me. My reply to this was basically: “That’s Bullshit. If you guys refuse me access to what I pay for I should get a refund. I shouldn’t have to take this up with the CEO to get a refund.” Her reply: “Maybe you should!” and I hung up in anger.

This triggered me to get in touch with AT&T again in a desperate plea to find someone who could help. The first rep actually transferred me to a great high level tech support agent, Sonia, who not only understood the issue wanted to help me. I was happy looked promising, but that promise was short lived. She tried hard, but said because the password was reset again after I called by someone and then deleted, that password is unobtainable and can’t be reset again on their end. I have to log into Yahoo! with whatever password it is, and finalize the un-merge process by hitting a button that should be presented when I log in next. The third step on the post on the ATT Forums. She actually called Yahoo! and came back with really bad news, and this is an exact quote:

“There is nothing we can do anymore and this issue is in limbo. No one can reset this password, not even Yahoo”. She gave me a Yahoo! reference number and a reference number for AT&T as well. She told me to try to convince Yahoo! to do something, but it looks bad.

I called Yahoo! and reached an agent who transferred me immediately to their supervisor. They told me the supervisor would conference us with AT&T and get this resolved. I was again hopeful. The supervisor while helpful and nice compared to other Yahoo! employees so far, didn’t want to call AT&T after all on the line. Instead she forward me off to a AT&T 866 support number after LYING to me telling me it was a direct number to a “High Level” support team that is both Yahoo and AT&T employees. I was upset.

One final call to Yahoo! resulted in another agent similar to the first one. Lots of attitude, didn’t care to help me, and kept repeating to me things I already told him. He refused to let me talk to a supervisor as well and instead said only AT&T could help me get into my Yahoo! account as “no one at Yahoo! can help you with your account”? What? I asked him basically “Isn’t it your job to help people get into their Yahoo! accounts?” He got VERY condescending to me and kept cutting me off trying to re-explain the situation to him. I told him his job is to help people with their Yahoo! accounts and how he was failing to do his job by passing off my issue to someone else, and I wanted to talk to a supervisor or anyone higher. He responded “If you know how to do my job, why don’t you do it yourself!” and hung up on me.

This is the end to my story, I gave up and filed a report against Yahoo! with the Silicon Valley BBB asking for my money back and my Flickr photos on a disc or the more simple resolution: access to my Yahoo! account again. AT&T’s Team Susan Twitter group said they are still trying to help me, but I’m not holding my breath. My Flickr Pro account exists and it appears I can upload photos via Instagram, but I can’t add photos or access my account any other way. So enjoy the photos while they last when my Flickr Pro account expires in August 2013. I am currently looking for a way to extract them automatically without logging in, but I’m not holding my breath. Also a lot of well respected friends of mine are recommending I take a look at 500px instead of Flickr, and I’m starting to see that is a VERY good idea. So here is my new my 500px account, feel free to follow me if you’d like.

Update 7/16 4pm: Thanks to a desperate “help me” email I sent over to Kay Kremerskothen the Lead Community Manager at Flickr, I got back into my Flickr account via a whole new Yahoo! account. Now I can back up it’s contents. He said he has forwarded on my Yahoo! problems to the right department, so we’ll see what comes of that. I also heard back from the BBB who has accepted my complaint and has given Yahoo! two weeks to respond to my issues. I still want to delete the old Yahoo! account for good, to make sure no one somehow gains access to it at some point in the future. Now to wait.