The worst has happened: you've tried to log on to your World of Warcraft account and you can't. Or perhaps you can log on to your account, but your characters are have been stripped of gear and gold. Your account has been stolen, hacked, or compromised somehow. But don't panic, because Blizzard can help you get your account back. It's a bit of trouble on your part -- which is why you ought to take care to keep your account secure! -- but it's certainly not impossible. We'll walk you through the whole process, step by step.
The process may seem lengthy -- and annoying -- but be patient, and you'll eventually get your account back just as you left it.
Step 1: Secure your computer
If your account has been compromised because of a virus or keylogger, then recovering your account without first securing your computer will just get your account compromised again.
Start by running an anti-virus scan. Don't have an anti-virus program? Then we're going to say there's a good chance that that's your problem. Go download an antivirus app right now -- we like Avast! for Windows and Sophos for Mac. Once you've downloaded it, install it, update it, and run it. If the scan finds anything wrong with your system, follow the instructions provided to fix the problem.
Next, make sure your software is up to date, since a virus might have gotten on to your computer through a software vulnerability. Most importantly, check for operating system updates and browser updates. If there are updates available, download and install them to protect your computer from future risks.
These are the basics, but for more on securing your computer check out our computer security guide.
Step 2: Change your passwords
After you've updated your software, you should change the passwords on your accounts. After one of your accounts has been hacked, it's not a bad idea to change all of your online passwords -- we know it's a pain, but it will be sure they're safe from whoever's already stolen your login information. But most importantly, you should change your email account password, as having access to your email account would allow the account thief to easily communicate with Blizzard in your name... which would be extremely problematic when Blizzard emailed you to reset your password as part of your account restoration! If your email provider offers any additional security measures, like two-factor authentication (which is what a Blizzard authenticator does for your WoW account), you might look into it for added security in the future.
Finally, if you still have access to your WoW account -- if whoever's using it hasn't changed the password or added an authenticator -- you should change the password to lock them out.
Step 3: Contact Blizzard
Now that you've ensured your computer and accounts are as secure as possible, it's time to get in touch with Blizzard. If you're locked out of your account, they can get it back to you as well as restore any characters or items that have been lost.
You can contact Blizzard Support by submitting a ticket, chatting with representative online, or calling them. If you're fine with doing this online, you can skip the how to contact Blizzard stage and jump straight to their account recovery tool. Whether you call Blizzard or fill out the recovery form, you'll have to prove that you're the account owner before they'll help you recover the account. You can do this quickly and easily by answering the security question associated with your account or providing a game key that's associated with your account. If you don't have either of these things, the process is a bit trickier: you'll have to provide a copy of a valid photo ID (a cell phone photo of it will do, so long as it's legible).
Once Blizzard has verified that you are who you say you are, they'll email you a link to reset your account password and then the waiting begins.
Step 4: Wait for your account to be restored
While you're likely to receive a password reset email very quickly -- especially if you remembered your security question or had a game key to immediately verify your identity -- the rest of the process can take a bit of time. Customer Support will have to investigate before they remove any restrictions on your account (for example, if your account was banned because the person using it was breaking the terms of service); restore lost characters, items, and gold in WoW and Diablo III; and remove an authenticator if one was put there by whoever compromised your account.
All we can advise is to be patient: pick up a good book, catch up on your favorite TV show, or try that new Animal Crossing game your entire friends list seems to be obsessed with. When Blizzard has everything straightened out, they'll email you.
Step 5: Protect your account
Hooray! You've just gotten an email from Blizzard saying that your World of Warcraft account is back in your possession. Now, before you do anything else, you should add an authenticator and SMS protect to your account. With these two features it's exceptionally unlikely that anyone will be able to get into your account so you don't have to go through this process again. As soon as your account is back in your hands, it's very easy to add them -- just log on to your account on Battle.net and look at the options under Account Security.
Blizzard makes it very easy from here -- just follow the instructions they provide. But if you want all the details on securing your account, check out our account security guide.
Step 6: Get back to gaming!
And, of course, have fun.
Just because you're a newbie doesn't mean you can't bring your A-game to World of Warcraft! Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from the seven things every newbie ought to know to how to get started as a healer or as a tank.