After an online account is deleted, the ID or email address is eventually made available for re-use. It's the same name but a different owner, and that can confuse people.
Could that person try and impersonate you? Yes.
Will it be easy? Maybe.
Would that person see everyone on your contact list? No.
This actually applies to all the services, not just Yahoo. The “90 days” part might change, but the basics would still apply.
When you close or abandon your account with any online service provider, they typically do exactly what you’ve seen in the Yahoo text: after some period of time they make your abandoned user name and email address available again. To anyone. All someone has to do it sign up and ask for it.
For most services, if you log in again using your old name before time runs out, it resets the clock. If you’re successfully logging into it, you’re clearly not “abandoning” it. Even if you go through a provider’s steps to cancel an account, there’s often a grace period after that where you can change your mind, log in and “un-cancel” the account.
Things can get a little confusing when people use multiple services from the same provider. For example, your Microsoft account is at once an email account, possibly your Skype account, your OneDrive account, and as of Windows 8.1 it could even be your computer’s login account. Using any of these services keeps the entire account active. You can’t close only your Microsoft email account while keeping your OneDrive account with the same email address. The same is generally true for all multiple-service providers, including Google and Yahoo!.
If you do abandon your account, or explicitly close it, then exactly when it’s returned to the available pool of names varies greatly.
For example, If you close your account with your ISP, they could actually make your ID available again the very next day if they wanted to – and I’m sure some do.
Most free services like Yahoo! and others wait at least 30 days and most wait much longer.
I believe that closing and abandonment are similar, and generally follow the same general sequence of events, but remember – this is totally up to each service provider, and can change without warning or notice.
We begin by abandoning the account. That means you don’t use it in any way: you don’t log in to the account or any service that is related to the account.
After some period of time, the service notices that you haven’t logged in and considers your account abandoned. At this point, typically:
- Any email, files or other items stored in the account are irretrievably deleted.
- Any contacts, friends or similar lists are irretrievably deleted.
At this point your account is, effectively, gone. You may be able to re-open it by logging in again, but all of your previously-stored data will be gone.
After some additional period of time, the service removes the “login to re-open” option completely. You simply cannot get the login ID (i.e. email address) back again once this happens.
At the same time, or perhaps after some additional time, the service will release the email address or ID back into the available pool. Now someone – anyone – could come along and request your old email address and get it.
When someone else has your old email address
It’s important to realize that when someone comes along and requests your old and abandoned email address, they get a completely new account. There is nothing in that account that relates to your old account, with the exception of the email address / login ID.
Remember, as part of the closing process the service deleted all of your stuff before they closed it. It’s gone. You can’t get it, and neither can the person who now has your old email address.
What they will get is any new email that’s sent to your old email address. Deleting your account did nothing to “tell the world” that the email address isn’t you any more. Even if you did try to broadcast the change, it’s very likely that not everyone got the message or updated their records. Chances are your old email address is still in someone’s address book, or included on some mailing list somewhere.
The new account owner will get anything sent to your old address.
And he’ll be sending “From:” your old address.
I hope that’s all OK, because there’s nothing you can do about it.
OK, there is one thing.
Don’t close the account
If the possibility of someone else getting email that was intended for you but sent to a long-abandoned email address bothers you, then the solution is actually quite simple.
Don’t abandon it. Don’t close it.
Keep the account open. Check in every so often so that it stays open.
Keep it yours, and you won’t have to worry about a thing.