I have an email account on which I have not signed in for a long period of
time. Under the terms of some free email services, the account will
automatically be deleted, and the account’s email address can be used by
someone else after a specific period of time. I know that.
However, if I used that email addresses in the past for getting updates
about my Paypal account, what about that? Does Paypal or any other similar web
site detect this situation, or just send the confidential information to that
email address instead?
This is not good.
Seriously, the best advice I can give you is to never, ever, EVER let that
I don’t even know whether or not Paypal detects the situation, but even not
knowing I can tell you that this is an extremely dangerous situation.
You may have just given your Paypal account (and everything in it)
Now that I have your attention, let me explain why.
Your email address is frequently your primary means of identifying yourself to many different types of websites and services, including sites like Paypal. Access to that email address – including the ability to receive and respond to messages sent to it – is one of the basic ways that these services confirm that you are who you say you are. You have access to the email address you registered with the service, therefore you must be you.
As you can guess, retaining access to that email address is critical to maintaining your identity on those services where you used it.
The most common scenario where this comes up is when an email account is hacked and access is suddenly taken. Accounts are hacked on an alarmingly regular basis, but depending on your service provider you often have recourse when you contact them for help, particularly if you’ve been actively using the account up until the incident.
On the other hand, if you just let the account lapse, most providers will assume you’ve abandoned your account completely, and may not help you recover it if you find later that you needed it. Particularly if another person has come along and created a new account with your old email address you may simply be S.O.L. – severely out of luck.
The services you register with may never notice that you’ve abandoned your account. Paypal, for example, may well continue sending email to that email address as long as the email doesn’t bounce. And there’s no guarantee that email will bounce – so Paypal might never even know that the account has been abandoned.
When a new person comes along with that new account using your old abandoned email address, they could suddenly start getting notices from Paypal. All they need to do is have a password reset sent to that email address and they now have your Paypal account.
And I’m not even sure that Paypal can, or would, help you in a case like that.
And even if they could, I use Paypal only as an example – any service for which you’ve used this email address is vulnerable. Do they all detect email bounces? Do they all have recovery processes? Will they all even help you?
You’re betting an awful lot on some answers that I suspect are mostly not what you want to hear.
So I can only reiterate the advice I started with: never, ever, EVER let that happen. Make sure that any email account you use when registering for services as important as Paypal are accounts that you keep active and secure.