How to Delete Accounts from Any Website

03.07.09


Deleting accounts you've created on Facebook, MySpace, AOL, and elsewhere on the Web isn't always easy. Here are the details on leaving 23 services behind.

by Eric GriffithBuzz (PCMagazine)


The words "I wish I could quit you" take on a whole new meaning when you want out of a relationship with an online service. Sure, you once thought you and Facebook or MySpace would be together forever, but eventually terms of service change, end-user license agreements mature, and, well, you're just not in the same place anymore.

Sadly, not all Web sites and social networks are created equal when it comes to breaking up. With some, it takes only a couple of clicks to say good-bye. If you stop paying, that goes a long way toward ending it with a few sites. Others make you jump through more hoops than a tiger at the circus.

No matter what you call it—deleting, canceling, removing, whatever—when you want to be rid of an online account, you'll find most sites don't feel obliged to make it too easy for you. So we've cut to the chase as much as possible to give you the links, the tips, and in the worst cases, the fax and phone numbers you need to sever ties.

Social Networks
Classmates.com Facebook
Friendster LinkedIn
MySpace MyLife
Online Retailers
Amazon Audible
Blockbuster eBay
iTunes Netflix
PayPal  
Blog Services
Blogger Twitter
Sharing Services
Flickr Photobucket
YouTube  
Online Services
AOL/AIM Apple's MobileMe
Google Windows Live ID
Yahoo  

Social Networks

Classmates.com

Another site linking up you and your alma mater–mates and another lawsuit: One user claims he was told by Classmates that several people were trying to contact him. He wasn't able to find out who—not until he paid. Then he discovered the actual truth: No one was trying to find him, at all. Rather than get mad, he got litigious.

Even if you don't feel scammed, you may feel annoyed—maybe you hated high school. And college. Canceling with Classmates is pretty simple—if you've got the free account. Those users can log in and remove themselves anytime. Visit the Member Support Email Contact form, pick a reason you're leaving, and click Yes. That's it.

If you've paid—base cost is $15 for three months—you've got a Gold Membership at Classmates.com, and that makes it a little more complicated. Contact the Member Support Team and someone will get back to you in e-mail or via live Internet chat. Classmates will dummy the account back down to free so you can do the removal. Another method is to set the account renewal option to "manual" so that it doesn't automatically debit your credit card; instead it automatically reverts to free when your Gold Membership runs out.

Can't get satisfaction online? Classmates.com can be reached at 425-917-5000. I tried it, hit 1 for customer support, then 2 for a question about the Web site, and got an operator after 4 minutes. She said she can cancel any account.

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Facebook

Recent issues with the Facebook terms of service—which would have given Facebook rights to everything you post there, for the remainder of time—had some users threatening to pull out. Which is probably why Facebook recanted on the changes and suddenly embraced democracy for its guidelines.

If you're still steamed, you have a couple of ways to leave FB behind. First is simple "deactivation." Visit your Facebook Account page and click the "deactivate" link at the bottom. Facebook will make an attempt to guilt-trip you into staying by pointing out just how many of your social-network friends won't be able to keep in touch. It even displays pictures of people you're in photos with, playing on your emotions with captions such as, "Mark will miss you" and "Wendy will miss you." Sure they will. Then how come they never poke me?

Once you've cleared the tears from your eyes, you'll notice another message on-screen, wherein the Facebook Team points out that you shouldn't deactivate because of that silly old terms of service change. That "was a mistake we have now corrected." Too much hullaballoo.

Soldier on. You have to provide a reason to deactivate, whether you'll be back or not, and you can also opt out of getting e-mails from Facebook while deactivated. That's the trick: Deactivation is not the same as deletion. Your account simply becomes invisible. Your friends on Facebook will all think you bailed. However, you have the option to reactivate it in the future, without losing any photos, notes, or pokes.

True deletion of a Facebook account means losing all of those—so be sure you have local copies of photos and notes before you take this step. You can't reactivate.

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Friendster

Yes, Friendster still exists. If you were an early adopter of social networks, you may still have an account there doing nothing to get you new, real friends (like those you have on Facebook!). Time to cancel.

Assuming you can remember your log-in, do so and click Settings. Scroll down and find the Cancel My Account link. On a new page, you'll find the Cancellation Form in the middle. You need to provide your e-mail address, password, give a reason you're canceling, and check off the "Yes, I want to cancel my Friendster account" box. You can even list what new social network you've moved to, just to make Friendster feel bad. Refresh the window, and if you were logged in to Friendster before, you shouldn't be now. Say "so long" to any data you may have uploaded, assuming you can remember what it was.

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LinkedIn

It could be argued that LinkedIn is the most useful social network around, especially in this day and age of job networking. That doesn't mean you won't want to cancel with them. In fact, LinkedIn specifically suggests that if you have multiple accounts, you should close one to consolidate.

To close an account, log in, click Account & Settings at the top of the page, then click Close Your Account (under Personal Information). Give a reason you're leaving—most sites want to know what they can improve, or did wrong— and then click Continue.

You have time to reinstate your account, if you regret the deletion. Contact Customer Service and confirm your e-mail address to do so. LinkedIn doesn't give out a number, but the link to contact them is on the bottom of every page. I found the number anyway: 650-687-3600. When you ask for customer service, you'll probably get sent to a recording.

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MySpace

Canceling your MySpace account is easy—when it works. When it doesn't, things get a touch arcane.

Sign in, click the My Account link, then click Account, scroll down to the bottom, and click Cancel Account. Keep in mind, there is no reactivation. Go through with the cancellation and you can't bring back your account—though you can create a new account using the same e-mail address you used before. That's won't restore your previous music, pictures, and blog posts, however.

It should be that simple. But MySpace has some caveats. First, the account might remain visible for a while. Days, even a week, maybe. After that, if the MySpace page is still there, you may safely assume the deletion didn't go through. Now you need to e-mail help@support.myspace.com and ask for assistance.

Send a "salute" to MySpace support in the e-mail. That's a "handwritten sign with the word MySpace.com and include your MySpace Friend/Profile ID number." Hold it up while having your picture taken. Attach the digital photo to the e-mail or at least send MySpace a link to where the picture can be found online. This salute may prove you're you, but that will matter only if you've got a picture on your MySpace page for the support team to compare it with.

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MyLife.com (formerly Reunion.com)

MyLife.com wants to bring people from previous school classes together. Unfortunately, it tends to be aggressively annoying, with a constant barrage of e-mails once you sign up. The earlier incarnation, Reunion.com, was even the subject of a lawsuit under a California anti-spam law (the suit was dismissed).

If you're not part of the class action, here's how to get away from the constant claims of acquaintances trying to track you down. It's tricky to find even in the MyLife.com help documents, where at one point it says "delete account" but there's no actual entry with that term. It switches to "remove account" on the actual help article.

First, you do have the option to change your e-mail settings so that you get fewer or no messages from Reunion.com. But Reunion/MyLife also claims it "may take up to 10 days for changes to take effect." Why on earth should this remotely be the case? Supposedly because "some may have been prepared for delivery already." That only fuels the desire to delete the account. So here are the steps: Log in, click My Account on the top right, find the Delete Account link, and click OK to confirm. This can't be undone; you'll lose all mailbox data, profile info, and photos.

Expect to get e-mail messages for a couple of weeks. If the spams continue after that, call customer service at 888-704-1900, even on weekends. Hit 4 for questions about premium membership. Then 3 to make changes. You can cancel both free and premium accounts through this number. —next: Online Retailers >

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Online Retailers

Amazon.com

Closing your account at Amazon means no longer having access to Wish Lists or Associate Accounts or anything else normally attached. The cancellation is not necessary if all you want to do is change your e-mail or credit card on the account. You can do either of those under the Your Account link, which you'll find in the upper right-hand corner of any Amazon page.

To actually delete an account altogether, make sure you have no orders outstanding. Send a message using the Contact Us button on the right (you'll have to sign in one last time). On the E-Mail tab, you'll find a form. One of the items listed is "Issue," which has a drop-down menu. Select "Close My Account." Write a brief note to Amazon telling them why, and send it off. You're done.

You can also call 866-216-1072 (206-266-2992 for international customers) to follow up if the account appears live after you close it. When we phoned in, the operator said the note method is the way to go.

Audible.com

Amazon's arm for audiobooks has an Account Details link on every page. Click it, verify your password, and look for the Make Changes to My Membership link. The next page is where you change the type of membership you have, but if you scroll down you'll see a Cancel Membership Plan link as an option. This won't appear if you've already tried to cancel the account at some point.

Canceling means saying buh-bye to any accumulated credits on your account. However, you can still get access to your library of audiobooks, to re-download if needed, which is a nice touch.

If the cancellation doesn't work, Audible still won't do anything if you follow up by e-mail. You need to call them. Try 888-283-5051, or 973-820-0400 outside of the U.S and Canada.

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Blockbuster Online

Sign in at Blockbuster.com and select My Account. On the left-hand side you should see a Cancel link. Blockbuster will ask you for a reason you're leaving, but before you can cancel, you'll be presented with other plans you could choose. I don't have a Blockbuster account to cancel myself, but I've read that it can take as many as 11 screens before Blockbuster lets you out of your relationship with them.

Once you're done with cancellation, you'll get a confirmation page. Revisit the My Account page on Blockbuster.com, and if everything was successful, there will be a "Re-subscribe" link under Subscription Plan. If you need to call, use 866-692-2789, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. central time.

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eBay

Killing an eBay account means never going back—at least, not with the same e-mail address or user ID. Which could be a handy thing for those accumulating bad feedback. Cancellation is not immediate; you get 180 days to finalize any transactions. If you change your mind during that time, you can reactivate the account before eBay finalizes the shutdown. eBay holds on to records about you even after shuttering your account, a policy it says "is necessary to comply with laws, prevent fraud, collect any fees owed, resolve disputes, troubleshoot problems, assist with any investigations, enforce our eBay User Agreement, and take other actions as permitted by law."

You also have the option to delete your seller account only but still make purchases on eBay. Simply remove all the payment info by clicking All Payment Methods on your Seller Account page, and then clicking Remove. No more selling for you.

To close an eBay account altogether, visit the Close my eBay Account page. You'll have to sign in, of course. eBay asks you to select why you want out from a list of categories (security concerns, billing issues, and the like), then to pick a more specific reason you're leaving. eBay will probably try to give you some advice on why, for example, your lack of time to shop online doesn't mean you should quit. Select "No, Please close my account," and hit Continue to keep going.

eBay has a few toll-free numbers you can call: 888-749-3229, 800-322-3229, and 800-322-9266, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Pacific. Press 2 to get customer support. The recording will try to get you to use Live Customer support online.

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iTunes

The iTunes Store operates through the iTunes software provided by Apple. If you don't have an iPod and prefer to buy your music elsewhere, there's little reason to have an account with iTunes. Then again, it's not like the account costs anything if you're not making purchases. Either way, completely eradicating an iTunes account is near impossible.

What you can do is make sure that no credit card is associated with the account, so that future purchases are impossible. Open the iTunes application, go to the Store menu, select Sign In or View My Account (depending on whether you've used the account recently), sign in, click Edit Payment Information, and select "none" next to credit card. After that, you need to contact iTunes Store Support via the contact form to cancel.

There's one good reason to keep an iTunes account active even long after you stop using it: DRM. The digital rights management tied to music purchased through the iTunes store in 2008 or earlier corresponds to your iTunes account. Some music may not be playable on your iPod if the account is dead. (This is not an issue if you have worked around the DRM; you can legally do that by burning music to a CD, then re-ripping the files back to your computer.)

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Netflix

The top DVD renter on the Internet gets it. When you want to cancel, you want it to happen in real time. So it warns, "Cancellation will be effective immediately." Once you go, you can sign up for another account, but you won't be eligible for a free trial ever again. You have seven days to return any outstanding rented DVD discs. You'll get one e-mail from them to confirm the cancellation, and that's it. No more DVD commentaries. Also, no more streaming movies, either.

How do you do it? Visit the Your Account: Cancel Membership page, check the box next to "I accept and understand the terms of cancellation and want to cancel my account." Click Continue. You're done. Calls go to 866-716-0414, a call center that's open 24/7. Visit the Help Center while logged in to get a six-digit service code Netflix will utilize to know who you are when you call.

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PayPal

eBay owns PayPal, so the two are intertwined, but separate enough that you don't have to kill both. However, if you use your PayPal account only for eBay, and you cancel that, you might as well. Just be sure to get all your funds out first by transferring them to a bank account.

To close your PayPal account, log in, click the Profile link, click the Close Account link (it's in the Account Information section) and you'll be asked to verify that you're the account owner by entering either your credit card number or a bank account number. Click Submit, then, finally, the Close Account button.

If you want to call, use 888-221-1161, Monday through Friday from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Pacific, or weekends 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific. Before you do, visit this Contact Us page while logged in. You'll get a six-digit PIN code good for 1 hour, which will help them access your account info faster. —next: Blog Services >

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Blog Services

Blogger

This Google-owned blogging service has accounts that can't be closed. What Blogger does offer are steps to "create the same effect." First, delete all blogs associated with the account, and remove any personal info from your user profile. Blogger even suggests you enter false information in the required fields to get around them. That's all you can do.

Note that if you change your e-mail address on the account to a false one, even you will lose access to it. Do that only if you know there is zero percent chance of coming back to the service.

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Twitter

No surprise, if you kill an account with Twitter, all your tweets are lost. In addition, you can't create a new Twitter account with the old e-mail address associated with that old account—though you can get around this by changing the e-mail address before you remove the old account.

If you want to save those precious tweets for future re-reading, the preservation services at Tweetake and TwitterSafe can handle this for you.

Twitter wants people to know before deleting: You don't have to kill an account to change the username. Seriously, Twitter is one of the few services where the username is as malleable as the password. If you simply want to limit access to your tweets, "protect" your profile so that only followers you approve can see posts. To do so, go to your Account Settings page and tick the checkbox next to Protect my Updates.

Deletion is so simple, I'll write it in less than 140 characters: Click Settings, click Delete My Account at bottom, confirm it, and...done. —next: Sharing Services >

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Sharing Services

Flickr

Flickr is owned by Yahoo. If you deleted your Yahoo account (see Online Services), and that same ID is what you used to sign in to the photo-sharing site, your Flickr account just got deleted, too. Surprise! You can avoid this by moving your Flickr account over to a new Yahoo ID before killing the old one. You can do this with the Transfer Your Account form.

If your goal is only to delete every single photograph in your Flickr account, that's also scarily easy. Visit the Delete your Account link. As the name implies, the profile is deleted. And so are all your pics and videos. This option works the same with both free and Pro accounts.

Flickr eschews letting you talk to a person in favor of a help forum.

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Photobucket

Ask.com's Photobucket stores more pictures than any other service, but if you're ready to move, here's what you do (if you've got a free account): Log in, click Account Options on the right, find the Cancel Account link, give them a reason, enter the security code you see on screen, and finalize everything by clicking the Delete My Account button.

You'll get an e-mail confirmation. Once that's sent, you have 48 hours in which to change your mind. If you don't restore the account in that time, the pictures are gone.

If you've paid for Photobucket Pro, you first need to e-mail pro@photobucket.com and make sure your automatic payment renewal is turned off. This reverts you to a free account, so you can do the deletion above—or just tell customer service in your e-mail and Photobucket will cancel it for you. Include your username and password in the message for confirmation.

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YouTube

YouTube is owned by Google, and your accounts with both may be linked. Unlink them if you want to cancel with Google but not YouTube. Unlinking requires you to sign in, click My Account, find the Unlink YouTube and Google Accounts link, and finally, click Unlink My Accounts. If you don't see that option, then your accounts probably aren't linked.

Note: If you created your YouTube account from your Google account, you can't unlink them. Canceling your Google account means all your YouTube videos are deleted.

Either way, you can always kill just a YouTube account/profile. Under My Account, go to Account Settings, then Manage Account. Give them a reason you're leaving, enter your password, and click Delete Account. Be sure to log out after that. The site may take some time to delete all the thumbnails of your videos.

If you need to contact customer service, there's no number, but there is a form that you can try. —next: Online Services >

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Online Services

AOL/AIM

If you've never heard the tales of how hard it used to be to cancel an AOL account, time-travel back to the summer of 2006, when one of PCMag.com's Top 100 Blogs, The Consumerist, first posted an audio file called "Reader Tries to Cancel AOL." Even then, Consumerist called it "the best thing we have ever posted." It is still comedy gold. And painful to hear.

Communication with AOL Member Services—what it calls customer support—occurs mainly over live online chat these days. You can get to it on any AOL.com page by clicking the Contact Us link at the bottom. It's good specifically for AOL members: If your account is only with AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), you have to go to AIM.com.

Also, there's a trick you can use to kill an AIM account: Stop using it. Eventually, AIM names will be deactivated due to inactivity. Per AIM's Terms of Service, this happens if the screen name has not been used for a period of 90 consecutive days. By the way, every AIM user gets a free email account via AIM Mail. This free account will be deleted after a non-use period of 30 consecutive days. If this happens, your email messages and address book will be deleted.

Another trick for leaving AOL that I've heard about, but can't really recommend, is to violate the AOL Member Agreement (aka terms of service). Things like swearing in chat rooms. That will probably get your account suspended tout de suite; I'm told it won't get you investigated by authorities. Assuming anyone notices. Maybe you can report yourself using Keyword: Notify AOL when you're logged in with the AOL Desktop browser software or AOL 9.5, the "classic" interface. (That's still available? We're surprised, too.)

Ultimately, just make the call. AOL Member Services is at 888-265-8008 or 800-827-6364, anytime, 24/7. The recording you encounter immediately gives you choices you can speak to navigate the menus, one of which is "cancellations." You'll need to know the answer to the "security question" for your account, typically something like the city you were born in or mother's maiden name. You can also fax—remember fax?—a cancellation request to 703-433-7283.

For more info on getting your AOL mail and data into some format you can continue to use before you cancel that account, check out Break Your Mail Out of AOL.

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Apple's MobileMe

What used to be Apple's .Mac online services is now MobileMe. The suite of features—like online backup, Web page hosting, and more—cost $99 per year (or $149 for a family). You can try it for 45 days, and if you cancel before that time, you get your money back. To cancel in general, log in at www.me.com, go to Accounts, click the Account Options tab, and find the Cancel Account button.

If you subscribed to MobileMe using an activation code provided by a third party, you may have to enter a live chat with them.

There have been reports that people who have synched data with MobileMe, such as entries in an address book, lost all that information when canceling, even after the free trial. Not just from the online cloud storage, but from their Mac computers. This is because users left data synching active even after canceling, so the computer's local data was overwritten with—nothing. Turn off MobileMe iDisk syncing before canceling. Apple has a page of tips devoted to backing up MobileMe data. 800-APL-CARE is the basic Apple Care tech support line.

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Google

We all know Google is a behemoth, owning and running more Web-based services than any company probably should. Most of them are tied very closely to a single Google account—if you have one, and you kill it, you lose access to all those services. Some (but not all) Google services can be turned off individually (see YouTube and Blogger above, for example). Here's how to delete some others:

Sign in to Gmail, go to the Settings link, hit the Accounts tab, and go to Google Account Settings; this is the primary page for basic Google account settings. Click Edit (next to My Products).

You're now on the Delete a Product page. From here you can remove your accounts for Gmail, Google Browser Sync (which is defunct now, but may still have stored your bookmarks and passwords), Google Health, Google Web History, Google Book Search, and Google Video.

Or, click the "Close account and delete all services and info associated with it" link at the bottom of the Delete a Product page. Guess what that does?

If you want to save your Gmail messages before canceling, the easiest thing to do is to set up access to the account via the IMAP protocol in a client like Outlook or Thunderbird. From there, you can copy the Gmail messages to your static inbox and save them permanently before deleting the account. Or you could simply enable Offline Gmail using the Google Gears service; once you've canceled your account, you won't be able to sync with the service anymore, of course, but all your e-mail should reside locally.

Google doesn't offer any kind of phone support, but you can call 650-253-0000 if you're really desperate.

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Windows Live ID

If you're not sure where MSN (Microsoft Network) services stop and Windows Live branded services begin, you're not alone. What they all have in common these days is the use of a Windows Live ID (which used to be called Microsoft Passport, then .NET Passport. Sticking with branding is not a strong suit in Redmond).

Your Windows Live ID is meant to be a single sign-in to everything Microsoft-esque, from the MSN portal to Hotmail to Windows Live Messenger to Zune Marketplace, even the Xbox Live service. Third parties like Expedia also use it. Killing your Windows Live ID could undo access to a lot of services and software—but that's your call.

There's an Account link at the bottom of most pages at Live.com, visible after you sign in. This page lets you edit your contact information, passwords and security questions, and more. At the bottom under Additional Options, you'll see the link for Close Account. If all goes well, you'll enter your password and that's it.

It won't be that simple for most people, however. You can't cancel if 1) you've got an active Windows Live Hotmail account, or 2) have paid, premium services associated with your Live ID; for example, an Xbox Live Gold account. You need to close all these services individually first. You also can't shut down a Live ID if it's "a secondary account to an MSN Premium account"—which you have if you're paying MSN for items like security software, file sharing, or even dial-up Internet access. Cancel premium services by visiting https://billing.microsoft.com while logged in to your Live ID.

Hotmail accounts can be deactivated via the Close your Account page. This eradicates all previous messages, but you do get 270 days to reactivate with mail intact. You can download Hotmail messages to your e-mail client software using a third party tool like IzyMail, or download Windows Live Mail software, the successor of Outlook Express, which will store your Hotmail messages locally . Click the Options link in Hotmail to import and export contacts from Hotmail.

Got more serious problems? Call 800-MICROSOFT.

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Yahoo

Yahoo carefully ties all of its services to a single account. Canceling it ensures that you'll never again get access to Yahoo Mail, HotJobs, GeoCities, the My Yahoo home page, Yahoo Groups, and any other service where you use your Yahoo ID. As mentioned with Flickr, above, sometimes you can get around that by creating a new account to associate with a particular service, but if you want to get rid of them all, here's what you do.

First, cancel any premium services with the company, such as Web hosting or selling. You'll find that on the Yahoo Billing Information page. After that, visit the Account Deletion page. You'll get a long page that spells out how this affects access to Yahoo services, and a notice that deactivation and deletion can take as long as 90 days, which Yahoo claims "is necessary to discourage users from engaging in fraudulent activity." And by canceling, someone else can come in and sign up using your old ID, though they won't be able to access any of your old data, of course.

Yahoo! customer service is at 866-562-7219 and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific.

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