New website aims to help you delete account information online: Internet Scambusters #591
Creating online accounts is too easy -- but trying to delete accounts is a different story.
However, the task could be about to get simpler thanks to a new website that pulls together cancellation links from across the Internet, as we report this week.
We're also starting a news alert service highlighting a high-profile scam issue each week. You'll find it at the end of this issue.
Now, here we go...
This Shortcut Could Help Delete Account Details
Have you ever found yourself battling to delete accounts you set up online, in an effort to make yourself less vulnerable to spam emails and identity theft?
Every time you sign up or register on a website, you give away your contact details and add one more group or organization that now knows how to contact you.
Of course, if you've already wised up, you may have created a "throw-away" ID and got yourself one of those one-time email addresses that you can delete later if you want.
But what about all those places where you already registered and now wish you hadn't?
You may think it's going to be easy enough to delete your name and your account. That is, until you try -- then you discover it's nowhere near as easy to unregister as it was to register.
Most organizations don't like you quitting on them, so they make it as difficult as they can. Sometimes it's downright impossible.
But a new website called JustDelete.me (note the dot before the "me") aims to make it a whole lot easier.
Free Global Service
The site is actually based in the UK, but its service is global -- and it's free.
Founder Rob Lewis wrote, when he launched the site in 2013: "After seeing a few tweets about how difficult it can be to delete your Skype account and then hearing that Netflix flat-out won't delete your details I decided to build JustDelete.me."
The site doesn't actually do the deleting for you but it offers a series of links for scores of organizations that mostly either take you directly to their cancellation page or tell you what to do.
And yes, in some cases, they'll tell you it's impossible to cancel certain accounts -- but at least you'll know, so you won't waste your time trying to do it.
It's true also that JustDelete.me is a work in progress. It's a social venture in which users are invited to contribute more cancellation links as they discover them.
That means if the site you're looking for isn't listed yet, you should revisit regularly until it turns up. Or discover the link yourself and then let them know.
After starting out with just 16 links, the site now has over 300, ranked in terms of cancellation difficulty -- which the site categorizes as easy, medium, hard and impossible.
They include names like Amazon (hard), Barnes & Noble (impossible), Facebook (medium) and Hulu (easy).
With some sites, there's a drop-down note providing more information. For instance, when you click on Groupon (hard), you get this info:
"According to Groupon's privacy statement, you have to contact support directly and ask them to delete your account."
Also, when we put some of the links to the test, they didn't always make it as straightforward as the name JustDelete.me suggests.
For example, clicking the Google (easy) link takes you to your Google+ personal info page where you can certainly edit your profile, but you can't delete it.
And of course, removing information from your Google+ profile is not the same as deleting your entire Google account.
(If you want to do this, read Google's Delete or restore a Google Account article.)
But still, JustDelete.me seems to be a valuable step in the right direction.
Another neat feature the site offers is the ability to generate a fake identity.
Obviously, you can't use a fake identity when you are using a credit card or signing up for a service that has legal status.
But it enables you to create a persona for those sites that are simply harvesting personal details for future use -- maybe to bombard you with spam or to sell you on details to a marketing agency.
Obviously, you can dream up your own fake ID but this site will also do it at the click of a button, including a name, a non-existent address, a bogus biography and date of birth, a username (which you can actually use if you want) and a password (which you can also use).
And if you happen to use Google Chrome as your web browser, you can also download an extension that puts an icon by your address bar. You can click this while visiting a site and it will provide the link -- if there is one -- to the account deletion page.
A few extra points:
- We can't vouch for the accuracy of this site or its interpretation of what's possible and what's not.
- You don't have to sign up or give any personal details when you visit, although we did note that the site does track users' connections with Twitter and Facebook. This is not unusual.
- If you visit the site, make sure you use that dot in the address. There are other sites with similar names. No need to key in "www" either. Just type "justdelete.me" in the address box.
Lewis reports visits from thousands of users from more than 170 countries every single day.
It's a sign of how desperate people are to delete account information to escape some areas of the Internet and to secure themselves against identity theft.
News Alert of the Week: We've been seeing a surge of spammy phishing attempts recently, disguised as account-related messages or attachments from big names like Apple and Amazon. They contain malware or links that lead to trouble. Don't click them! Go to the specific company website instead.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!