#1 – Gathering data, or: how I learned that I failed as a human
Hi, time for another update, so let’s get this thing started.
Today we’re going to find out what internet accounts need to be reviewed. Well, if it wasn’t that easy. If you’re like me, you have some different e-mail addresses, do shopping, are an active forums user and some various others.
Well, in my case, it’s a bit complicated, since my guessed count of e-mail accounts are about eleven. I don’t use most of them, but I haven’t organized them the way I want (or need) just yet, that I have a nice, clean structure – or that I can safely delete them. Then there are the shopping sites (first guess: 14), Forums (first guess: 5), ohers (first guess: 5) and newsletters. Yes. they have our e-mail address, and need to be reviewed. (first guess: 5 [educated guess: endless, because they’re trading addresses]) and gaming (first guess: 5). Don’t forget social media services, they give you sometimes new e-mail addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org (guess: 5)
That would make a total of about 40 accounts to review, but I already have a bad feeling about this…*
Good thing though: I use a gMail account since 2009 or so, but I never used the address, just the addresses, that are implemented via pop3, that way I have one big inbox at google, while using the other e-mail addresses for signing up anywhere. I even have an e-mail alias called damnspam@<otherprovider.net> for you-know-what. But even though I am relatively good prepared, I need to know exactly what I am dealing with, so what you need to do is:
- search your inbox(es) for keywords like: password, username, login, newsletter, invoice, account, activation, reset (in case you needed to reset your password for any service) – let me know if you have some other ideas for keywords that are typical for online accounts.
- Make notes of the results, moreover: note any website you have in mind, where it could be possible, that you needed to enter your e-mail even if only once for proving its validity.
- If you plan to consolidate your services later on, make categories. My categories are: e-mail, personal online services, social services, shopping, forums (tbc).
- *Enter fetal position and weep quietly. (I’ve had round about 300 results after only a few hours investigating. There will be more, i know it; what I don’t know is how much more.)
Enough of the irony, now, let’s clean up this mess!
#2 – Swiping, cleaning, sorting
Okay, you’ve had your time to relax, and get yourself sorted. Now, we need to sort our findings. This never was supposed to be this nasty, but we’re cleaning, right? You can never expect to clean your mess, without getting your hands dirty.
- Check the websites, you once registered for newsletters, but haven’t received something lately (like for the last three-to-twelve months). Ignore those and mark them in your list. If they’re just for newsletters, without an account with password, it’s better to not contact the sites, because you want to keep a low profile. You never know which provider will sell your e-mail address, and which doesn’t. If there is a profile site, you most likely need to login, then you can deactivate your newsletter preferences, and afterwards maybe delete the account. But that’s not always guaranteed.
- Try to log into the accounts that you want to delete. If you don’t already have a password manager, now would be the best time to start. I recommend using keepass. Use your previous categories inside your newly created database, and save login site, username and password. Be sure to remember the database password! Also, you should not delete the deleted ones from your password manager – just to be safe.
- Find and use the option to fully delete your account. They might trick you into clicking the wrong buttons, so pay attention until you’ve taken the process to an end. Afterwards it should give you a message like: account deleted; account will be deleted; it can take up to X days until… *
- After cleaning each single account, you can delete the corresponding e-mails. You should be safe with your password manager database (make backups).
- Lather, rinse, repeat – for each account that you have found.
After clearing the list, you should be left with the active and mostly used accounts.
My recommendation at this point is to change your most important passwords to unique, strong passwords. You can let keepass generate some for you, or you can invent them yourself.
Now, you can stop here and be happy with your unique passwords inside a database or you might keep on consolidating and reducing the total number of accounts. Well, for shopping, there’s not much we can do, except changing to unique passwords, but do you really need all of your ten e-mail addresses? Or maybe you want to host your emails on your own server.
*Whatever message you get, you could try and login after the given number of days to prove that your account/profile really is deleted.
I will update, how many accounts of my initial 300+ I’ll have left. – I am also curious, how my inbox is going to look like. – GO!