Ask LH: How Can I Close Accounts For Old Services I Don't Use Anymore?

Dear Lifehacker, After years and years of signing up for every new webapp under the sun (most of the time using the same password), I'm afraid of becoming the next Mat Honan and getting all my data hacked into oblivion. I've changed all my important passwords, but I want to close out all of the old, forgotten accounts I never use. How can I figure out what sites have accounts open tied to my email address? Sincerely, Erasing Everything

Dear Erasing,

While there isn't one simple way to see all of the accounts you've opened over the years, there are a few things you can do to find them — but effectiveness can vary from person to person. Here's what we recommend.

Check Through Your Old Email

The best place to find services associated with your email address is, well, your email. Assuming you archive most of your mail as opposed to deleting it, you probably still have a lot of welcome emails from the services you've used over the years. Do a search for phrases like:

  • "Confirm your email"
  • "Your new account"
  • "Welcome to"
  • and even "Unsubscribe"

Be sure to search all your email addresses, not just the one you use now. This could help you find quite a few old services you've forgotten about. You also may find that you get emails from those old services from time to time, which will help weed out any few that you might not have records of on hand.

Search for Old Passwords

Next, if you ever save your passwords in a password manager (or your browser), searching through those can help you find other accounts you've forgotten about. Look inside any current and old password managers you may have used, including the ones that come with your browser. Some (like LastPass) will even order them by last used, so if you just start at the bottom you're sure to find some old services you forgot about. Plus, you'll have the password handy so you can get right in and close your account!

Clear Out Permissions

A lot of services allow you to sign in with Google, Facebook, Twitter and may want access to other services you use like Flickr, Instagram or Dropbox. A good way to discover some of those older, unused services is to look through the permissions of the services you do use. A great way to do this all at once is previously mentioned MyPermissions, which shows you everything you've allowed to Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Instagram, FourSquare, Windows Live, Aol, Flickr and Familio.

What You Should Do Going Forward

Now that you've cleaned up as much as you can, you should prepare for this going forward in the future. If you're going to sign up for new services you aren't sure about (let's be honest, we all do it), make sure you archive your welcome emails instead of deleting them. This will help you find them later on and clean out any services you don't use. Alternatively, you can also sign up for new services with a variation of your Gmail address, like [email protected]. That way, the emails still come to you, you can do a simple search in Gmail for messages sent to the +service address and clean them out.

Cheers Lifehacker


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