Yahoo Shuts Down Decade-Old E-Mail Account, Shrugs

David is a paying customer of Yahoo, for web hosting services. It’s also been his e-mail account for the last decade. So why can’t he get an answer out of anyone there as to why they abruptly shut down his account a few weeks ago? He’s been locked out of his digital house on the Internet, and no one can tell him what he did wrong. Yahoo is an impenetrable fortress with no phones, designed to keep customers from talking to anyone with an idea what’s going on.

The letter is long, but bear with David. He explains, step by step, precisely how aggravating it can be to try to get an answer out of Yahoo.

I have been a Yahoo! Customer for many years. I first set up my email
account about ten years ago, and it has been my main email account ever
since. I also have two Yahoo small business webhosting accounts, which I
pay for. Recently, all of my Yahoo services were suddenly suspended
without warning. This happened on January 25, 2012, and since then I have
been trying, not only to get my account working again, but simply to get
any customer service assistance whatsoever and have received almost none.
To be frank, the way I have been treated by the Yahoo team has been awful,
and I think this has more to do with Yahoo policy than with the persons
involved.

On Wednesday, January 25, I tried to login to my account and received a
message that my services had been suspended for violation of the Yahoo
terms of service. I was surprised at this, because I have been using Yahoo
mail for ten years without problems and have made no changes in the way
that I use it. I am not aware of any violation of the terms at all.

Immediately I looked for a Yahoo customer service phone number, but the
company does not provide one in their Help section on their site. So I had
to fill out a form. I sent this message to Yahoo Customer Care inquiring
what the problem was. I received a message (at an alternate email address
I provided) that said they would respond within 24 hours. After 24 hours
passed, I wrote back saying, “This is an urgent matter. It’s been more
than 24 hours, and I have not heard back from you. I am missing important
emails having to do with work. Please respond.” I had to wait another day
to hear back, and when I did, I got the following message: “Thank you for
contacting Yahoo! Customer Care. This message is to let you know that your
Yahoo! Mail inquiry will require some additional research before we can
determine what, if any, action is warranted. Please note that we are
routing your issue to an Abuse Support Agent who has specialized
expertise. We try where possible to provide a written response within 24
hours, but actual time may vary.”

Keep in mind that at this point my account had been suspended for two
days, and I still had not gotten a message from a real person. I cannot
emphasize how important it was for me to get my account reactivated,
because not only was my email my main method of communication with others,
and my email address was the only address for me that some people had, but
I used one of my websites to provide important materials for my classes (I
am a teacher). This was directly affecting my ability to work.

Did I receive a response from Abuse Support the following day? No, I did
not. So I looked all over for a phone number I could call (and believe me,
this was no easy task), and I finally found one for email and password
support. It is the only customer service number the company has. The agent
with whom I spoke suggested I chat live with a support technician, but I
would have to open a new email account to do so. This I did, and, after
waiting for 45 minutes, I chatted with the support technician. He told me
that he could not help me because it was a matter to be handled by the
Abuse department. So I asked him if he could give me a phone number for
the Abuse department, and he said they do not possess a phone. So I asked
if I could chat live with someone from the Abuse department, and he said
no, they do not provide that service. He said all I could do was email
them (which I already had done). And that was that.

I then waited another day for an email response, which I did not receive.
It was now January 29, four days since the suspension. So I called the
email support line again, and I was told that there was nothing they could
do for me. They suggested that I fill out another contact form to send to
the Mail Abuse department. They said this would speed up the process. So I
did this. I received another form letter that stated they would respond
within approximately 24 hours.

Two days later I finally received a response. The response, from a person
named “[H]” was simply a form letter, which said nothing more than
what I already knew: that my account had been suspended for violation of
the terms of service. No specifics were given (heck, I don’t even know
which term of service was allegedly violated), nor was any evidence given.
So now it was 6 days since I was locked out, and I was no further along in
getting any help. Not even a little bit.

As you can imagine, I was beyond frustrated by this point. I emailed
“H” back asking for some specific information and some actual
help. Then I called the email support line again and asked to speak to
someone in charge. I was put on hold, waiting for half an hour, and
finally was forced to hang up. I called again, and this time they put me
through to a supervisor, who identified herself as “[S].” I explained my
dilemma to her, and she sounded sympathetic but told me she could not
help, that I had to wait for a response from the Abuse department. I
explained that I had not received any assistance from them and asked if
she had a phone number for their department. She said no. I asked her if I
could speak to her boss. She said she could not provide me with that
information. I asked her if she could give me a phone number for ANYONE at
Yahoo that might be able to help me. She said no.

Then through an internet search I was able to locate the phone number for
the corporate office. I called, but when I selected the option for
customer help, it simply sent me back to the email support phone number I
had already called. So I tried again, and pressed 0. Thank heaven I
finally got an operator. I told her about my problem and needed to speak
to someone who could help me. She told me to hang on, and then sent me
back to the main menu! Arrgh!

I was at my wit’s end. I did not know what to do. To top it all off, on
Feb 1, I finally received another response from the Abuse department, this
time from a person called “[A].” And do you know what I received
from her? An exact duplicate of what “Elizabeth” had sent me. Word for
word the same! A form letter. No actual response.

So I replied to A. that I needed to know what specifically I had done
to merit the suspension and to provide me with evidence of this. I also
asked if I could get my account reactivated or at least if my emails could
be transferred to a new account.

Two days later, I received the following response: “Hello David, Thank you
for writing to Yahoo! Mail. Yahoo! may, in appropriate circumstances and
in its sole discretion, remove or edit any content; and/or terminate the
accounts of users who appear to have violated the Terms and Conditions.
Any action taken is confidential. We will not release this information
unless required to do so by law or under other similar circumstances. We
are unable to make exceptions to this rule. Thank you again for contacting
Yahoo! Mail. Regards, [redacted].” So basically all I was told was that they are
allowed to suspend an account. No offer of assistance of any kind.

I then obtained the postal mailing address of the Yahoo! Corporate Office
and sent a letter to Scott Thompson, the new CEO of Yahoo! explaining the
whole experience to him. Maybe it was overkill to write to the head of the
entire company, I don’t know. But the problem is that Yahoo provides no
contact information and makes it very difficult, nearly impossible, to
speak to anyone at all. It’s almost as if the Yahoo staff is hiding from
their customers. It appears shady. It has been a week since I sent the
letter and have not heard back. I still have no resolution to my problem.
I don’t want to have to go to another company. My email account is so
ingrained into my life–I have used it everywhere–that it is like losing a
limb. I might add I haven’t even been able to play my Yahoo fantasy hockey
league in the two weeks, and my friends are kicking my butt. The most
tragic part is that my email account has 10 years of history in it,
contacts that are lost to me now, and conversations with loved ones now
dead–and I have no way of accessing them anymore, and I worry that they
are lost forever.

RELATED:
Google Deletes Last 7 Years Of User’s Digital Life, Shrugs

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Scooter McGee says:

    Yahoo…where you really get what you pay for!

  2. I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. says:

    Scary because I’ve had Yahoo for at least 7 years.

  3. brinks says:

    There aren’t any valid grounds for a lawsuit, are there?

    • Lyn Torden says:

      I can’t think of any, and I love to sue corporations.

    • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

      Given: “Yahoo! may, in appropriate circumstances and
      in its sole discretion, remove or edit any content; and/or terminate the
      accounts of users who appear to have violated the Terms and Conditions.
      Any action taken is confidential. We will not release this information
      unless required to do so by law or under other similar circumstances.”

      The suit would file for discovery into what the action is and argue that the locking of the account without recourse was not “appropriate circumstances”

      Of course, I have a feeling the TOS also snared David into, our friend, Mandatory Binding Arbitration.

      • Skipweasel says:

        They terminated my account for saying (politely and correctly) that guineapigs are edible in a Yahoo Answers reply.

        • sprybuzzard says:

          Seriously? Of all the crap that gets posted in yahoo answers and that’s something that gets your account terminated?

    • FastFingers says:

      Yes, he has a paid Yahoo! premium account, and is not getting what he paid for.

  4. SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

    Ugh, it sucks to lose a long term email address like that. What’s worse is the unspecified “abuse” and violations of the TOS that Yahoo! alleges without even a mention of what the op actually did. I would cancel my web hosting with Yahoo! & make sure they know exactly why, not that they will care, and maybe try to get my local tv consumer reporter involved.

  5. Sarek says:

    You violated our terms of service. There’s no one to talk to. We won’t respond to your inquiries. And if we do, we won’t tell you what you did, or how to rectify it.

    Paging Franz Kafka!

    • Lyn Torden says:

      It’s no different with any other providers, like Facebook, Google, Hotmail, MySpace, etc. Whether it’s email or hosting or just being social, they can just take it away, no reason given. And that’s because you agreed to their terms of service, if you use their service.

      • kc2idf says:

        My hosting provider (DirectNIC) has a phone number. The phone number works. I know this because I have called them before. When I called them, I spoke to a person. It is possible.

        Of course, then I also have a server in Amazon’s EC2 cloud, so it isn’t like I’ve completely isolated myself from impenetrable organizations.

  6. Yorick says:

    I gave up around the point where the OP spoke to “[S]“. Can I get the Reader’s Digest version please?

    • ovalseven says:

      Yahoo shut down a decade-old e-mail account and shrugged.

    • apple420 says:

      He called every available number at Yahoo and noone was able to help. Noone would even tell him why his account was suspended. The Yahoo employee said they could suspend an account at anytime and not give a reason. David got no resolution to his issue, and is still looking for help.

  7. Kaleey says:

    Awful. Though the fantasy hockey comment was unimportant and unnecessary.

    Are his websites still operational, or have they shut down too? Any company that takes your money for services should have a phone number at least for paying customers.

    And any “violation of ToS” accusations should be required to have evidence, and a clear explanation of what in the ToS was violated. They should at least be required to provide the specific paragraph/section for reference.

    • Darsynia says:

      I dunno, though. I think it was clever to add it because it points out that, while of course the work business was more important, he’s pointing out that he also spends leisure time there. More time spent there equals more time that he’s seeing ads and possibly encouraging friends to join him in the hockey league. Besides, leisure time is valuable too!

  8. Netstar says:

    Time for an Executive E-mail Carpet Bomb (EECB)!

    Send the above letter to the executives listed under Officers and Directors. You can find this out under Financials in the Yahoo stock quote.

    http://www.google.com/finance?q=NASDAQ:YHOO

    Good luck!

  9. bhr says:

    This is a great example of why you should always have all email forwarded to a second account (including work emails if possible). From my years working for unstable companies the only protection I had on some issues was that I automatically bounced all emails to my yahoo account.

    Any contacts and vital documents (and in this case “”conversations with loved ones now
    dead”) should be backed up on your local machine.

    The fact is, as valuable as free email is to you and the company, they have the right to change the service at any time. What happens when yahoo (or google) gets shut down by government regulators for some arbitrary reason?

    It’s the same argument I have for people who complain that they “Lost” all the pictures on a facebook or twitter account.

    • nicless says:

      How exactly are the emails going to be forwarded from a closed email address?

      • bhr says:

        First, I am talking preventative measures for your records and contacts. Second, often in these cases an email access is taken away, but the account still exists for a while.

  10. Costner says:

    I’ve had my Yahoo account – which is my primary email address – since 1998. I’d be up the proverbial river if they locked me out.

    I do have other email accounts, and all of my contacts have been transferred, but losing all of those emails as well as my sent history since 1998 could sting a little.

    • mamacat49 says:

      Me, too. I know you get what you pay for, but this was just wrong (on Yahoo’s part).

    • oldwiz65 says:

      Welcome to the club. Fortunately I have all my contacts on my Mac as well and the calendar. Why in the world is Yahoo simply giving up on e-mail and support in general????

  11. Bionic Data Drop says:

    I had a Yahoo email address years ago. I had it for probably 7 years. One day when I logged in, I was told my account was suspended. No one could give me an answer as to why. Within 2 days, someone else was using my user name. On the bright side, I got a Gmail account to replace it, so I’m glad Yahoo screwed me.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      Someone else yelled YAHOOOOOO! louder than you did (e.g. they paid someone on the inside to take over your account).

    • chiieddy says:

      Same happened to me. I signed up for Yahoo! the year they released and had the username ‘caffeine’. Locked out and stolen. No way to get it back. I just gave up.

  12. Cat says:

    tl:dr
    “Yahoo is an impenetrable fortress with no phones, designed to keep customers from talking to anyone with an idea what’s going on.”

    Substitute “Google” for “Yahoo”. Same thing.

  13. kamikasee says:

    This is exactly why it’s a good idea to set up a domain for email (especially for business). Even if you use a free service to receive email (Google apps is free for up to 5 accounts), you still control the domain, so you can redirect it to a new service if something fails or gets screwed up. You can register a domain for as little as $6/year, which is more than worth it just to never, ever have to change your email address.

  14. Difdi says:

    I can understand keeping client confidentiality…but NOT from the client!

  15. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    Oh no! I’ve had my HookedOnCronix yahoo email since like ’88….is it gone ?

  16. Gorbachev says:

    Never, ever put all your eggs in a single basket.

    • BackInBlack says:

      Always heard if you do, you’d better “Watch that basket!” But since Yahoo is a basket in which the eggs are in someone else’s control, well, your advice is good in this instance.

  17. thomwithanh says:

    It’s not unlike being denied a visa – there are some countries that won’t even give you a general non-specific reason why you were turned down, let alone items that need to be addressed before applying again.

  18. CornwallBlank says:

    Yahoo — particularly the email part — has been run by the cheapest available labor
    for years. There used to be some fairly senior and competent people there — but they
    were all dismissed to cut costs. Now, even for those of us who’ve been running mail systems for decades and are used to being able to make personal contact with our peers anywhere, it’s effectively impossible. There appear to be nobody there with any clue or any desire to fix anything, ever.

    The same can be said for Hotmail, by the way. Both operations are largely on autopilot and there is really no support to speak of. (Support costs money. Better to just write off longtime loyal customers like you: it’s cheaper.)

    My best advice, based on a very, very long time on the net, is (a) never use Yahoo or Hotmail and (b) if you use any of the competing services, keep an up-to-date full backup of everything.

  19. IraAntelope says:

    tell David don’t go to time warner. I just moved to a new address a few miles down the road, and after shutting down my service a few times, TW was able to move me, but cancelled my roadrunner email. lost all my history, contacts, everything. TW said it must happen because my address change. does this happen with laptops? how is it that scammers can find and steal your email, passwords, contact lists, etc and misuse them, but TW, with all their resources, cannot locate my history?

  20. J-Purchase says:

    It’s far too cheap and easy to register a domain name like firstnamelastname.com. Setup up email hosting on that and you no longer have to worry about things like this.

    You get what you pay for.

  21. Barry Bunch O'Krunch says:

    Laura, come on! You’re one of the good ones, but you really need a new shtick:

    “CVS Sells Customer Expired Prepaid Debit Card, Shrugs” By Laura Northrup on January 5, 2012
    “Amazon Puts Your $1000 Kindle Library ‘On Hold,’ Apologizes, Shrugs” By Laura Northrup on November 23, 2011
    “UPS Knows Where Misrouted Package Is, Shrugs” By Laura Northrup on October 28, 2011
    “Walmart Sends Me Cheaper Bed Frame Than I Ordered, Shrugs” By Laura Northrup on October 19, 2011
    “Groupon Refunds Me Extra $20, Shrugs” By Laura Northrup on August 23, 2011
    “Google Deletes Last 7 Years Of User’s Digital Life, Shrugs” By Laura Northrup on July 22, 2011
    “Alienware Sells Marine $6,000 Paperweight, Shrugs” By Laura Northrup on July 18, 2011
    “AT&T Wireless Acknowledges Their Crappy iPhone Service, Shrugs” By Laura Northrup on June 23, 2011
    “Hotels.com Leaves You Without A Place To Stay In Beijing, Shrugs” By Laura Northrup on June 15, 2011
    “Verizon Sends Your iPhone And Your Calls To New Jersey, Shrugs” By Laura Northrup on February 11, 2011
    “Citibank’s Rewards Provider Ships Your Prize 1500 Miles Away, Shrugs” By Laura Northrup on January 27, 2011

  22. jiubreyn says:

    I had an issue with Yahoo several years ago and tried to contact their Customer Service department but had the same issues as David. It wasn’t until I filed a complaint with the BBB and informed Yahoo of it in my third email to them that they actually responded and helped me resolve my issue.

    • scoosdad says:

      I’m having a hard time convincing myself that Yahoo would even care about what the Better Business Bureau said or thought about them, or would fix a problem because of the BBB.

      It’s not like looking for a local contractor: “Hmm, I need an email address. I’d better go check Yahoo’s BBB ratings!”.

  23. NewsMuncher says:

    I had had an email account with Lycos, which I paid yearly for premium service, namely POP3 so I could back up my email & check it from another account. Inexplicably, the POP3 stopped working. I tried contacting them to only receive replies that were either canned or generic “did you type in your password correctly” kinds of things. When I looked up who was at the top, it was a Korean company (at least, from what I could determine), so I decided to lapse my card number and copy the emails I needed (by hand) and close down the account, best I could.
    I hope Google never declines to the point where people migrate away and they stop servicing their paid accounts. I hope there’s enough people now who have email with them that it won’t be an issue…. or else maybe if/when Google does bow out of the email service, they will provide notice & perhaps a transfer bridge to another service.

  24. Kate says:

    What you do is call sales and talk to them if you are paying for the account. They don’t want to lose your payment which you threaten to do, so they often will do more to actually help.

  25. Matthew PK says:

    Kyle Bennett works for Yahoo?

  26. Shouhdes says:

    Shoudla used Gmail

  27. NoLongerALurker says:

    The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the OP, with his 10 year old account, perhaps had a very desirable email address. An email address that someone else was willing to pay Yahoo for on the back end. And this whole “TOS violation” is just an excuse to push the OP out…
    http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/conspiracy-keanu-template.jpg

  28. MikeVx says:

    I keep telling people that Web e-mail is an utterly stupid thing to do. I get ignored, then things like this prove the point.

    I have an ancient e-mail address that I pay for through a local company. I’m actually paying for a dial-up account that I don’t use any more, but the address is older than most of the modern internet companies. I access it with e-mail software from my computer using POP and SMTP protocols over encrypted links. All of my e-mail that is archived in any way is on my local machine, with occasional backups to DVD, although I may have to resort to Blu-ray in another year or so. The few web addresses I have are for disposable purposes, and if the accounts vanished tomorrow I might not even notice for months, nothing of importance is tied to webmail accounts.

    I track who has my various addresses, and if I did have to lose my oldest account, I could notify those concerned in an hour. I have my own domain that much of my mail filters through, and an account at Spamgourmet that I route most businesses through, again documented so that I can notify those who matter if the service folds.

    The key here is that all my important information is stored locally, with the only on-line storage being compressed and encrypted to the teeth and stored on multiple on-line services to back up the critical stuff. I trust no single on-line service to exist next month, let alone next year.

  29. Not Given says:

    Maybe his email account or web pages got hacked and someone was using one of them to send out spam or distribute malware.

  30. holocron says:

    I had something very similar happen to me a couple years ago. I had a yahoo email account that I had used for years. I was not a “paying” customer of their other services at the time.

    I ran into pretty much all the same roadblocks as noted above. This was a personal email address and not a business one.

    Eventually, I gave up and considered the email “lost.”

  31. SiddhimaAmythaon says:

    Well this is why i have my own domain forwarding to my gmail (so i can redirect it if something go’s wrong like this. )

  32. scottd34 says:

    So, you use a consumer service with no means of support for something that important like work? What to do when something goes wrong is something you want to take into account when selecting a service provider for ANY service, especially one that you use to make a living off of.

  33. LBD "Nytetrayn" says:

    I can relate. Yahoo’s customer service is abysmal. I only use it for more “personal” type stuff, and leave business to another account.

    They have a Twitter which responds to stuff, but it doesn’t really do any more good than the above. :P

    I wonder if there’s a way to back up one’s Yahoo mail…

  34. FastFingers says:

    Phone: 866-562-7219
    How to reach a live person:
    Press 2 when recording asks for your selection
    Hours of Operation:
    Mon-Fri: 6am – 6pm PT

  35. Scamazon says:

    Think their email customer service is bad? Try hosting a paid website through them. AWFUL and I almost couldn’t get my domain name back…

  36. kat says:

    Yahoo has a Concierge department which is supposed to handle this type of query. Of course they no longer advertise an email for it.

    Forget about phones, the only people they let answer phones are way too junior to be of any assistance.

    The ONE way to get action and answers is go to your local Better Business Bureau. THEY seem to know how to get hold of the Concierge people who are the only ones who ever actually solve problems for customers. I know two people who got wrongly suspended accounts back this way.

    A nice legal letter from a lawyer threatening to sue them for loss of business would help, too, relying on the “….required to do so by law or under other similar circumstances. …” clause. Send that to THEIR legal department by registered mail.

  37. IraAntelope says:

    earthlink did the same to me a few years back when I moved…cancelled my emails, my websites, my contact list, all gone, cannot retrieve them…so sollee.

  38. samandiriel says:

    As an IT professional, I hear stories like this way too often. Kids, some words of advice:

    (1) Don’t rely exclusively on ‘the cloud’ for storing your data. If it’s an email account, make sure you have an email client running somewhere. There are tons of free ones, such as Thunderbird or Windows Live Mail, to create local copies of everything – with IMAP if possible, POP if there’s no other choice.

    (2) Never use free services for your professional life. The OP *does* pay for their websites… but not for email. So not surprising that their is no support.

    If you need your own professional email address, get a domain of your own (I like domaindiscover.com) and an email hosting program with a reliable host (such as anybody but GoDaddy!). I would recommend Google Apps, which offers free accounts for 10 users and under. Also, using a ‘free’ email like yahoo or hotmail looks totally mickey mouse to anyone getting email from you in a professional capacity.

    • do-it-myself says:

      “Also, using a ‘free’ email like yahoo or hotmail looks totally mickey mouse to anyone getting email from you in a professional capacity.”

      That perception is totally true these days!

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      I love google Apps and can go to 50 since I got in before the change. But it’s free and I am still at Google mercy. I think if I upgraded to premium they have backup tools.

  39. David says:

    Hello everyone–I am David, the fellow whose story was posted above. I wanted to let you know that within one day of this story being posted, I was contacted personally by phone by a representative from Yahoo, who wanted to help me with my problem, and a couple of hours later, my account was restored, including all of my emails and my webhosting. Big thanks to the Consumerist for getting this noticed by the powers that be.

  40. ecuador says:

    It is possible that someone either did not like the OP or wanted to later claim his yahoo address and filed some sort of report.
    But the fact is you can’t rely on a free account for work-related/business purposes. Whether it is Google or Yahoo or whatever it does not matter, you cannot rely on something that specifically tells you there is no warranty. If your work relies on email, or if your personal email is important to you and you can’t afford to lose it at some point, I suggest you pay for the service. For example, for about $10/year you can get your own domain name and email service on that (including multiple email accounts, aliases etc).

  41. BackInBlack says:

    OK, I get forwarding all webmail to a second webmail account as backup. I also understand using a web client to backup to a local machine, but don’t like doing that. I use exclusively webmail, but would be hosed if this happened to me. SO… is there an easy and convenient way to backup all previous webmail (before setting up forwarding for the future ones)? Anyone?