Delete unused online accounts – or they’ll come back to haunt you


Zombies are all around us – but not in the way you might think

How many email accounts have you had in the last 10 years? How many online shopping or utility company accounts? When you last looked for a job, did you sign-up to a whole load of recruitment sites to help your search?

What about apps that you might have downloaded, signed-up for service and then sometime deleted?

Now, how many of those accounts or apps have you used in the last 6 months … or year … or 3 years?

Even free trials that you took-up but never continued past the initial offer period – what about all of those?

Is it a separation, or are we talking divorce?

Whatever the answer to those questions, if you have any accounts that you haven’t used in more than 2 years, it’s quite likely you’re never going to use them again.

2 years is more than just a trial separation … it’s a divorce.

Those accounts that you no longer use but that you haven’t deleted are called “zombie” accounts, and with our massively-increased online usage, they’re multiplying all around us.

The trouble is, those graveyards are fertile ground for hackers. They could still contain very personal, very relevant information about you – information that someone could still use to compromise who and what you are now.

Simply forgetting about an account, or deleting an app is no protection whatsoever. Your data will be still be sitting on a corporate or cloud server somewhere, exposed to just as much risk of hacking as anyone still actively using the same service.

So what should you do?

It’s a chore, especially if you’ve got to trawl through loads of old zombie accounts, but deleting (not just forgetting about) old online accounts is just as important as not throwing out your bank statements without tearing them up into small pieces or, ideally, shredding them.

Every online service that you sign-up to will have an “account deletion” option buried somewhere in one of their customer service menus. If you can’t find it, google it or, if you still can’t find it, pick-up the phone, start-up a web chat or drop an email to the customer service team wherever your account’s at and ask them how to delete it.

The only thing you mustn’t do is to keep allowing all those old redundant accounts to stack-up.

These 5 steps should help you to seek and destroy those troublesome zombies:

1. Go through the homescreen of your phone, tablet and desktop to look for apps and programs you have downloaded. There’s a good chance that you’ll have had to have signed-up for something when downloading them.

2. Check through emails to jog your memory for any other online accounts, free trials or services you took advantage of. Your social media pages might also have apps connected to them that will remind you who you’ve signed-up with.

3. Next – this is usually best done on a desktop computer as many mobile apps and sites are cut-down versions of the full site – go to the log-in pages for each of the accounts you want to delete and sign-in. Chances are you’ll have forgotten some of the log-in details, but please persevere and ask for password reminder or reset emails so you can do the job properly.

4. Once you’ve signed-in to an account you want to delete, you’ll generally need to head for the “customer service”, “account management” or “dashboard” area to find the option that allows you to delete the account. Looking for a settings “cog” is often a good place to start too.

5. Follow the “delete account” process – you’ll likely be asked a couple of times if you want to proceed, and even when you’ve pressed “yes” for the 3rd time, you’ll be reminded that “all personal data will be lost”. If you’re sure you want to delete that account, go ahead and finish the process on-screen and then wait for the confirmation email telling you that it has been done.

Phew! One down, 63 to go …

It definitely is a chore, but with hacks and data breaches almost a daily occurrence and on the rise, to lose your online privacy and security to an account you don’t even use any more is almost worse than being hacked by an account that you use every day.

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