Saturday, April 24, 2010

Email Hoaxes - - Reality of the Mail Warning That Gmail Deleting Unused Accounts

Beware It's a Cyber World - - Summary:

Email, purporting to be an official notification from webmail service Gmail, claims that the user's Gmail account will be deleted if he or she does not forward the message to other contacts.

Actually, this warning is a nonsensical hoax and should not be taken seriously. Gmail is not deleting the accounts of those who fail to forward a message to other contacts. Versions of this hoax have now been circulating for several years. Other variants of the hoax have targeted other popular webmail services including Hotmail and Yahoo. All versions are equally false.

Let have a look to the contents of the said mail:


Subject: FW: Officail Gmail Notification

Dear Gmail users:

Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed that Gmail's system has been getting slower. This is due to the increasing number of Gmail accounts. Since this occurrence, we have decided to delete accounts that are no longer in use. We will determine who's account is deleted depending on if you forward this message. If you would like to keep your account, then please send this to all of your contacts to let us know that your account is still in use. If this message is not sent to other accounts, your account will become invalid and your email may be taken by another loyal user. We are sorry if this may cause any inconvenience.


Paul Buchheit (Creater of Gmail)


Beware! It's a Cyber World - - Explanation:

According to this email, which purports to be an official notification from Google's webmail service, Gmail, the recipient's Gmail account will be deleted if he or she does not forward the email to his or her contacts. The message claims that the Gmail system is getting slower "due to the increasing number of Gmail accounts" and inactive accounts must therefore be deleted. The email informs recipients that they can prove that their account is still in use - and thereby save their account from deletion - by sending on the warning message to others on their email contact list.

However, the claims in the email are utter nonsense. Gmail certainly will not delete the accounts of those who fail to forward a particular email message to others. In fact, this "warning" message is just one in a long line of similar hoaxes that have targeted a number of other online services for more than a decade. The following links point to articles debunking other versions of the hoax:

Any message that claims that your account with a specified online service will be deleted unless you send the messages on to other users is virtually certain to be a hoax. Pranksters have regularly used this ruse because it is a tried and tested method of ensuring that their silly hoax messages will continue to circulate for months or even years. Many recipients hit the forward button without due forethought when they are sent one of these messages because they are fooled into believing that they must do so in order to save their accounts. Thus, these utterly pointless hoax messages continue spreading aimlessly via email and social networks.

Of course, many service providers, including webmail services, often do reserve the right to terminate accounts that have been inactive for a lengthy period of time. Indeed, Gmail notes the following on its help pages:
A dormant address is a Gmail address that hasn't been used for six months.
You can still receive mail if your address is dormant, but you need to log in to keep your account active.

If you don't log in to Gmail within three months of it being labeled dormant -- or for nine consecutive months -- Google may delete the address.
However, you certainly do not need to forward a silly email in order to prove that your account is still active. For Gmail, and most other providers, all you need to do to keep your account active is simply login to the account from time to time.

If you receive one of these hoax messages, please do not forward it on to others. By doing so, you are simply playing into the hands of the foolish prankster who created the hoax in the first place.

Internet users should also be aware that "warning" messages that are superficially similar to these account deletion hoaxes are also used for much more sinister purposes by Internet based criminals. For example, a phishing scam emails designed to steal account login details from Gmail users also falsely claim that inactive Gmail accounts are being deleted. Rather than simply duping recipients into forwarding a silly email, these scam messages attempt to fool users into replying with their Gmail username and password. The login details supplied by the victim can then be used by scammers to hijack the user's account and use it to perpetrate further scams and spam attacks.

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