Why you shouldn't delete your old e-mail addresses

If you delete an email account and the old address is assigned to someone else, all manner of shady activities could result.

If you haven't got around to deleting that Hotmail or Yahoo address that you haven't used in eight years, don't worry – experts say it's actually a better idea to keep it.

Even if you no longer use an old e-mail address, it's best not to delete the account for security reasons, according to researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics (FKIE).

If you delete the account, your old e-mail address could be reassigned and misused by the new user, the experts say.

In some cases, information contained in e-mails addressed to the old owner could be made available to the new user. The new user could also gain access to services and accounts that are still linked to the e-mail address, which could enable them to shop online in your name or post to social media.

According to the FKIE researchers, this potential identity theft is especially common with so-called "freemail" accounts, which are often automatically deactivated if they haven't been used in a while.

In some cases, the original owner is not even aware that the address has been deactivated. A further complication is that users rarely have a complete overview of which email accounts they have linked to which services, the FKIE says. — dpa

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