It’s been a pretty harrowing few days. You can read my original account of what started the craziness in full detail in my previous post, but I’ll recap it here for those just joining us. Someone stole my Xbox Live account on Saturday and charged up a bunch of Microsoft Points on my credit card, which they then used to buy downloadable content for their FIFA 12 soccer game. When I reported the theft to Microsoft, I was told that it would take them 25-30 days to investigate the matter, meaning that I’d be without access to my Xbox and without my stolen $125 during that time. This is the busiest video game release season of the year, so being out of gaming for most of November and December was most definitely not a cool prospect.

Even aside from the personal violation of having my account invaded and my money stolen, there was a business angle to it as well. A lot of game companies send me things all the time for review or promotion, and those get linked to my specific Xbox Live account. I couldn’t just switch to a new account, because those items wouldn’t follow me over and I’d be abandoning my 95,000-something achievement score that I’ve been building since 2005. So I was in dire straits as far as not only my gaming but also my work on Fandomania.

Not one to give up easily, I started poking around to see whether I could speed up the process in any way. I wasn’t making much headway until I got an e-mail back from Larry Hryb, aka Xbox Live’s Major Nelson. For those not familiar with him, he’s the Director of Programming for Xbox Live and is basically the public face of Microsoft’s gaming brand. He has a hugely popular podcast, he does all the big Xbox announcements and promotions, and he has what has to be one of the coolest jobs anywhere. He was up to speed on my situation and told me he’d look into it for me around mid-day on Tuesday. It wasn’t long before I got an e-mail from the Xbox Enforcement Team, the folks who drop the ban hammer on people who break the EULA and otherwise misbehave on Xbox Live. The e-mail was CC’d to Stephen Toulouse (aka “Stepto”), Xbox Live’s Director of Policy Enforcement. I’m not sure whether all their e-mails get CC’d to Stepto, but it was kind of cool to see that, and it made me feel like they were taking this situation seriously.

It turned out that my account situation was not as bleak and long-term as the original support folks had told me. Yes, my account had been stolen by someone outside the United States, and yes, they had stolen money from me, but the recovery process would be a lot simpler than it had seemed it would be. I suspect this might be a specific bit of luck involving my situation, so I think there probably are still a lot of FIFA-hacked folks who unfortunately will still have to wait out the full 25-30 day investigation. I kept in e-mail contact with one guy who was working on my account until he got off work late last night, and then another fellow picked right up where he left off. They stayed in constant touch with me until everything was back up and running. Around 2am I was able to start recovering my account back to my console, after which I followed their recommendations on changing up a bunch of security measures to lessen the likelihood of a re-hacking. By 3am I was back into the games and doing ridiculous things in Saints Row The Third.

I’ve never had any of my accounts hacked or my identity stolen prior to this, and I have to say that it’s a much more violating feeling than I ever imagined it would be. It still gives me the icks to think about some kid messing around in my Xbox account and having access to my whole profile. He even played FIFA under my account and earned three achievements, which I currently am trying to get removed from my profile. Even though I have the account back, I now have this feeling of paranoia, kind of like I’m trying to go to sleep in a house after a home invasion. I’m just waiting for somebody to kick the door in and grab all my stuff again. It’s at least gratifying to know that some of the more public faces at Xbox are awesome people who are willing and able to help out individual consumers when bad stuff happens.

Many thanks to Major Nelson for getting the ball rolling, and thanks also to the folks on the Enforcement Team who put in late hours to make sure my downtime was minimized. I really appreciate it, and any doubts about my Xbox fandom have been vanquished by a full day of awesome customer service.

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