Having an America Online email account is truly a blast from the past. As one of the first internet providers, AOL and its email services forged a new path. Technology improved at a rapid pace, rendering AOL and its dial-up internet service obsolete in favor of more agile and simpler email providers like Gmail and Outlook.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How to Permanently Delete Your Own AOL Account
- How to Permanently Delete a Deceased Loved One’s AOL Account
Despite these changes, nostalgia and force of habit can be a bit more powerful than updating your email. If someone set up their email account when AOL was cutting edge, they might have never felt the need to change it.
If you’re trying to close down an account for yourself or a loved one though, you might not be familiar with how to properly delete an AOL account. In particular, if you’re trying to help a loved one in cleaning up their digital assets after death, you might need some guidance along the way.
How to Permanently Delete Your Own AOL Account
As with every digital account, you should make sure to review, download, and save any important documents. That could run the gamut from emails, attachments, photos, or other sensitive information.
Log in to your account
If you haven’t touched your AOL account in years, it might be more challenging than you’d like. Start by investigating password managers. Did you write it down on paper? Some people write down passwords and store them in a locked and fireproof box.
If you used to do that, investigate your box. If you don’t have a physical location for your passwords, it’s time to sleuth your way through digital accounts. Google sometimes automatically saves your passwords, for instance.
If you can’t find your password, the next step is usually to click on the ‘Forgot My Password’ option. But what if you don’t even remember your email? Try calling or texting someone you know you emailed with this account in the past. If you sent emails with nostalgic value, like pictures, they might have your emails still.
Cancel all active subscriptions
AOL offers a variety of subscription services. As the Internet evolved, their business model followed suit. As a result, they offer tons of popular subscriptions that you may have, like specialized identity protection, computer protection, and security.
Do you have Norton Security Online? Or DataMask? What about PRIVATE WiFi? All of these services, and more, are offered through AOL.
However, if these subscriptions are active or you have a remaining balance, you must wait to cancel your account. AOL requires that you wait 90 days after canceling paid plans and active subscriptions. After that time period, you can close your account.
You’ll also need to pay off your balance. After both of those things are accomplished, you can successfully cancel your account.
Delete all usernames
Do you have multiple usernames listed under the same account? AOL requires that you delete each one separately. Afterward, you can close the master account.
Before you delete them all, make sure whose you’re deleting. Maybe you kept multiple personal usernames under one account. If so, feel free to start deleting! But ensure that you’re not wiping someone else’s emails clean without their knowledge.
Terminate your account
After you’ve completed the above steps, go to the “Delete My Account Page.” After that, it’s smooth sailing. AOL walks you through the deleting process step-by-step.
How to Permanently Delete a Deceased Loved One’s AOL Account
Despite you potentially not knowing their password or username, AOL makes it easy and uncomplicated to delete someone else’s account. If you do not reach out to AOL directly, you may need basic information such as their email address and password.
Consequently, if you do not have this knowledge, are you able to work through the “I forgot my password” options to gain access? And do you likely know the answer to their security question? You can probably log in easily with all these bits of information. Even if you do not have this information handy, you can still find a way to delete your loved one’s AOL account.
Delete or deactivate?
AOL automatically deactivates an account after ninety days of inactivity. If your loved one had a free account, that window shrinks to thirty days. But you might want to erase an account entirely.
Email accounts are quite different from social media accounts. On social media, everything is saved when you deactivate the account. If you choose to resurrect it, you have the option to make everything reappear again. Like most email services, that may not be the case for an AOL account. Deactivation wipes everything but your username. Message history, contacts...it’s gone.
If you delete your account, you lose the username, too. In this instance, it might be easier to let the account expire. By then, AOL will do the work for you. But if you don’t want to do that, you can still delete your account.
Call AOL customer support
You can call AOL customer support at 1-800-827-6364. They suggest that you provide relevant information about the deceased. You might be asked about your relationship with the deceased loved one, or their date of death. After that, AOL may send some paperwork via physical mail, or email it to your personal account.
Once you return this paperwork, they’ll review it. Expect to be asked questions that prove the deceased’s status and your relationship. If everything goes well, they’ll update permissions on the account. That way, you can access it and delete it.
Staying in Contact
Think carefully about what happens to your loved one’s digital assets after death. What happens to that flow of information? If someone tries to contact them, or if a company reaches out, what happens? It might bounce back. And it might be impossible to know about it.
If that’s the case, you might not want to delete or deactivate the account. You might want to forward some of their emails from their account to yours just in case. Basically, this means any emails that go into their inbox will be sent to you automatically. This might be a temporary solution. It can help through the first few months after death, to make sure they’re not missing anything.
You can also check to see what someone’s wishes were. In today’s day and age, many people start end-of-life planning early. In that case, see if they left instructions about their online accounts.
If you're looking for more tips on deleting or erasing your digital accounts, check out our guides on how to find all of your online accounts, how to delete your digital presence, and why your digital afterlife matters.