Yahoo accused of deliberately making it hard to close your account

Graham Cluley

Yahoo forward thumb

Yahoo forwarding

It’s not as easy to up sticks and leave your Yahoo account for dead as it was before the company announced that it had suffered a massive breach, and some disgruntled users say they are smelling something fishy.

The specific concern is that sometime earlier this month, Yahoo disabled users’ ability to auto-forward messages to external non-Yahoo accounts.

Forwarding disabled

Why does that matter? Well, if you’ve had a Yahoo account for the last 10 years you may well be concerned that there may be plenty of folks and companies who have your old yahoo.com address, who won’t know about your brand spanking new email account.

So even though suddenly deserting Yahoo in reaction to the hack and tales of the company’s sloppy attitude to security might be understandable, you should probably ensure that anyone who does email you at that address still has their message forwarded to your new one.

Automatic email forwarding was disabled at the beginning of the month, several users told The Associated Press. While those who’ve set up forwarding in the past are unaffected, some who want to leave over recent hacking and surveillance revelations are struggling to switch to rival services.

“This is all extremely suspicious timing,” said Jason Danner, who runs an information technology business in Auckland, New Zealand, and is trying to quit Yahoo after 18 years with the email provider.

So, why is Yahoo preventing users from enabling auto-forwarding. Here are some theories:

  • It’s a cynical commercial decision. Yahoo is trying to sell itself to Verizon, and the last thing it needs are users jumping ship. Not having auto-forwarding makes switching to another email provider less attractive. Some credence might be given to this theory by complaints from BT Yahoo customers that they have been prevented from deleting their accounts.
  • It’s a security move. Yahoo has realised that hackers have been exploiting auto-forwarding to get their claws on innocent users’ emails. Quite why they’re allowing users who have already enabled auto-forwarding to carry on if this is the case is a mystery.
  • It’s buggy. Despite just about every webmail provider offering auto-forwarding since the start of the century, Yahoo has discovered that the way it was doing it was problematical, and so is working on fixing the problem.

I don’t know if any of these theories are true, of course, and maybe you have other ideas as to what might be really going on.

In a statement given to BBC News, however, Yahoo promises to have auto-forwarding back up and running “as soon as possible”:

“We’re working to get auto-forward back up and running as soon as possible because we know how useful it can be to our users. The feature was temporarily disabled as part of previously planned maintenance to improve its functionality between a user’s various accounts. Users can expect an update to the auto-forward functionality soon. In the meantime, we continue to support multiple account management.”

I wonder if soon means later this week, next month or sometime in 2017 when most people have forgotten about the Yahoo breach.

If you are considering closing your Yahoo account, you may wish to check out this discussion on the forum about how best to export your Yahoo email messages.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

5 Replies to “Yahoo accused of deliberately making it hard to close your account”

  1. I don't fool around with companies like this — I just abandon the account (treat all future email from them as junk mail and auto-delete it) and the issue goes away. Then I just move on with my life. (Any contact info I need to maintain with correspondents, I change my email address with them.) If Yahoo (in this case) wants to maintain my Yahoo defunct email address, they can run amok.

  2. Open an account with gmx.com, and you can set it to collect mail from your yahoo account. Reverse forwarding.

  3. Why impede the feature now? They're clearly doing the dirty to avoid a mass exodus, pre-Verizon sale. Giving them the benefit of the doubt is like assuming pigs fly…

    In any case, the best way around this to;

    1. Sign up with an alternative, reputable email provider
    2. Have the credentials and account details/set up on hand for both accounts, ie: POP3/IMAPS server and in/out addresses
    3. Install Thunderbird; set up both Yahoo and the new email accounts
    4. Recreate the folder structure in the new account
    5. Now the important part, MOVE (not copy within Thunderbird) all emails into the new account, inc. Sent and Draft
    6. Verify there's no correspondences or remnants remaining
    7. Do the same for any contacts, Remove your Yahoo account from Thunderbird
    8. If not done already, reset the Yahoo password, enable 2SV and abandon the account.

    Let the hackers/Verizon trawl through an empty account.

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