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How Long Will I Get Email From an Inactive Account?

Is it really the account that’s sending email, though?

Though inactive email accounts stay open for some time before they're closed, spammers can make it appear as though an account is still active.


Question: I’ve been getting email from the Hotmail account of someone who is reportedly deceased. How long is a Hotmail account inactive before they recycle it and make it available to someone else to use?

That does sound a little unnerving, to be sure. I know I’d be a little weirded out if I got email from someone whom I knew had passed away.

But it does happen. In fact, just the other day I got email from someone who passed away years ago.

It has nothing to do with their account, though.

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Email from the deceased

Accounts are generally closed after some period of inactivity. For, that’s currently two years. Thanks to spammers, though, you may continue to get email that appears to be from that email address even though the account no longer exists.

Account inactivity

Microsoft currently states that accounts must be signed into once every two years. If not, they are declared inactive and may be closed. (I could not find any statements relating to the email address being released for reuse.)

So the account will remain for that length of time, assuming no one else signs into it.

But if no one else is signing into it, then I don’t think the account is sending email. I think it’s something else entirely.

From spoofing

I’d be willing to bet that the email you’re getting from your deceased contact isn’t from their account at all.

It’s much more likely that spammers are simply using their name and/or email address in the “From:” field of spam. This is known as “From spoofing“, and is trivially easy.

The original account is not involved in any way. Indeed, it doesn’t even have to exist. If the account is deleted after any length of time, that doesn’t impact the spammers’ ability to send email “From:” that email address.

And, sure enough, the email I got “from” my deceased contact was nothing more than spam.

Do this

Someone’s Sending from My Email Address! How Do I Stop Them? has more on the topic of how spammers send these emails.

The bottom line, though, is that it’s likely just spam, and should be treated as such. Mark it as spam and move on.

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4 comments on “How Long Will I Get Email From an Inactive Account?”

  1. I also just received an email yesterday evening (March 2005) from a very old friend of mine who has a Hotmail account. His son wrote to me last August to tell me his father had died in June last year. The son tells me he has been trying to access his father’s Hotmail account for the past five months without success, he says he’s the only one with the password. The email asks me how I am, asks me to write back soon with all my news and sends me kisses from this person. This is freaking us all out. Strangely, it is written in a similar way to how he would have written to me. And the daughter had also received an email from the deceased father and using a pet name that he had for her!

  2. I have a similar problem to query from Bree on March 14th 2006. I failed to use my hotmail email account for a number of months. When I signed in after that time the account had been deactivated. I reactivated teh account but all my files had been removed. Is there any way I can retrieve these files?



  3. A similar thing happens with Facebook friend requests. I’ve gotten a few spoofed friend requests from deceased people. Facebook account spoofing is rampant. If you get a friend request from someone you are already friends with, check out the requester’s profile and write them to ask if it was them and warn them that their account has been cloned.


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