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Issue #737: September 5-11, 2021

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Q: Like many others I used to have an old AOL email account. It has been so long since I used it, I totally forgot about it. Somehow. the scammers are sending their junk to my very old AOL account, and it is being automatically forwarded to my present Gmail account. I have no idea how this can be done. This all started about 3 months ago. I review all my emails on my iPhone or iPad. My desktop is Windows. I keep blocking them, but they just keep coming. Is there a way I can just delete forever my old AOL email? Any assistance you can give would be greatly appreciated.

– Ed L.
Niceville, Florida

A: Ah, good old AOL or, America Online as they used to be known.  I too had an account there back in the day.  For those of you not in the know, in its heyday AOL was the largest provider of online content around.  This was in the days before people commonly had an Internet connection, and before most content was accessible through web browsers, or dedicated apps.  AOL was the 800-pound gorilla in the space, offering a wide range of online services including games, instant messaging, chat rooms, web portals, and, yes, e-mail.  It was AOL’s e-mail service that originated the now stereotypical male-voice cheerily announcing, “You’ve got mail!”  As an aside, the company was also widely known for bombarding the average household with seemingly countless CDs via snail mail, offering their software along with sometimes hundreds of hours of free time on the service.  Despite their size and dominance, AOL lost its place in the market when Internet Service Providers (ISPs) began popping up all over the country offering broadband Internet access, and web-based content matured beyond simple text-based pages with clickable hyperlinks. The company didn’t perish completely though.  In June 2017 they joined with Yahoo! to form a “unified digital and mobile media company.”

So, Ed, it sounds like your e-mail account comes from the time when AOL was a pay-for-use service.  I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point – probably when they merged with Yahoo! – e-mail accounts on AOL became free.  In-fact, as of this writing, you can still sign-up for a free AOL e-mail account.

Now, my experience in the distant past with Yahoo! was that their free e-mail accounts expired after 90-days of inactivity.  I’m guessing you must have expected yours to expire when you stopped using your AOL account.  Apparently, that didn’t happen, and AOL is trying to be helpful by forwarding any e-mail your old account receives.  Why it would only start happening 3-months ago is a mystery to me.

As I see it, there are two possible approaches to solving this problem.  The preferred one would be to get AOL to stop sending them to you in the first place.  Since an AOL e-mail account obviously exists, you should be able to recover the account information, and have full control over the settings.  Start by visiting https://www.aol.com.  Click the envelope icon in the left-hand navigation pane to reach the e-mail login page.  If you don’t know the username, there is a link that will guide you through a recovery process.  If you know the name but not the password, you can enter the name and click “Next.”  Then click “Forgot password?” to begin the process of recovering it.  Once you’re logged in, you should be able to take actions to stop the e-mail forwarding, or even close the account altogether.

Another way to stop having to deal with these messages is to program Gmail to automatically dispose of them for you. The easiest way to implement this is to open one of the forwarded messages and click the vertical 3-dots button near the upper-right corner and select “Block ‘Some Name’” where Some Name is probably the name associated with your old AOL account.  Alternately, at the main Gmail window, you can click the gear icon near the upper-right corner, then select “See all settings.”  There are navigation selections across the top of the white box that appears.  Select “Filters and Blocked Addresses.”  I won’t insult your intelligence by giving you step-by-step procedures, but what you need to do is set up a filter that routes the offending messages directly to the Trash or Spam folder.

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