Data Privacy

Here's Why You Should Delete Your Old Online Accounts — and How to Do It

Ever get frustrated when you try to close an account online, but you can’t figure out how — so you just forget about it?

NBC Universal, Inc.

When Jett Valera decided to start using a password manager for all of his online accounts, he made a startling discovery.

“I suddenly realized I actually had over 200 accounts. Online accounts," he said.

The accounts included everything from social media to online shopping.

Keeping all that unused personal data lying around the internet could put your digital privacy and security at risk. But as Valera started getting rid of the accounts he didn’t use anymore, he discovered it was easier said than done for several of them. One even took more than a year.

“I couldn’t find any instructions or any guidance that would help me, that would navigate me to where I can close it," he said.

Consumer Reports’ Thomas Germain says it happens all the time.

“Deleting accounts you don’t use can be complicated and time consuming — but it’s an important way to protect yourself online," Germain said.

That’s because in some cases your info could be sold or potentially exposed in a data breach. So how can you delete that data for good?

Your First Step:

“Start by checking the settings or account menu. If it’s not there, go to the help menu or even the frequently asked questions to look for instructions," Germain said.

Search the Privacy Policy:

If that doesn’t help, try the company’s privacy policy. You can search for words such as like “account” or “delete.”

Did Anyone Else Share Instructions?

You can also Google how to delete an account from the company to see if anyone’s posted instructions online.

Chat With Customer Service:

“If you still haven’t found it, try contacting customer service. And in my experience, it’s often faster to go through text chats instead of a phone call whenever possible," Germain said.

What About Accounts You Didn't Even Remember?

To help you find accounts that you’ve simply forgotten about, Consumer Reports suggests you Google your email address and old usernames, check for saved log-ins in your web browser or password manager, and search your email inbox for old “welcome” messages.

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