Messages from the grave

How old email accounts can rise from the dead.

As we move through life, we may find that email account names outlive their usefulness. Email names such as “partymonster” or “superslacker” may be fine in high school, but entirely unsuitable when adding them as contact information to an important job interview. If we switch to alternative email names, what happens to the old, abandoned accounts?

Some email providers close and delete old accounts after a time to keep them from falling into the hands of criminals. Some do not. If a person obtains access information for your abandoned account through a criminal act, what’s the harm? It could be considerable, if you have useful information in it.

While you may have moved on to a new email address, some of your old contacts may yet use their original addresses. A criminal with unrestrained access to your unmonitored account can spam your old contact list with messages pretending to be you. If those contacts think you sent the message, even if it’s from a long-dead account, they may be inclined to click on a link or download a file embedded in it. If they do, it could unleash malicious software that steals their personal information or locks down their computers using ransomware. Your old contacts will not be pleased in either situation.

Protect your personal information, and your old contacts list, by shutting down old accounts when you have no further use for them. It removes the risk that “superslacker” will rise from the memories of your youth to haunt old friends and acquaintances in the present.