Troubleshoot Email Addresses

Phone is sending me to “dead” emails
. Why?

A  cartoon graphic of character holding a big envelope. What direction to send it? Originally from a story about Microsoft and its servers in Ireland.
Troubleshoot email addresses? Old and new! Graphic credit: PC Mag (2014)

Dear Ms. Smartphone: Please help troubleshoot my email addresses!  I mostly use my phone now instead of the computer to read and send email. The phone is continually sending email to my friends at an older address, and since they have had a few different addresses, it doesn’t get to them. My friends tell me they disabled these email accounts years ago.  How do I sort this out?  Elena, Los Angeles.

Dear Elena: Not to be nostalgic but with snail mail we fill out a form at the post office when we plan to change homes. Then, for the next twelve months the flyers, bills, and cards get forwarded to our new address. How simple is that! 

As a first step, remind your friends about closing old accounts.  Hopefully they did not use the snail mail method to forward  email to a new site. The reason is that autoresponders and e-messages, including the spammy ones, all get sent to the new inbox. Forwarding email could make them a nefarious source that inadvertently and accidentally perpetuates spam!

But the second ‘ask’ is whether they can successfully shut down these older accounts?  Your friends may not be checking those accounts or paying for them anymore but here’s the rub: They need a password to get into discarded accounts to delete them. If it’s been some time since the account was active, they may no longer have those details. 

Too many Clouds today?

But, there is one more thing to consider- the email sites were closed and the old addresses no longer exist. In snail mail terms, your friends burned down the house when they left.  Yet your email still points there. The phone might be pulling down the contact list from different servers you access, such as  the  iCloud, the Microsoft Exchange or Google.  When the house burned down the contact information stayed put and the server still points to the smoldering ruins. While it is fairly easy to clean up duplicate contacts stored on an iPhone, there are some more places to consider (read these). But begin here:  has your current list of contacts  been saved to one source, the iCloud, for example, but when you use your smartphone, it accesses older lists say on Google or Outlook?

Respectively yours….

Your question brings a delightful excursion for DearSmartphone, because digital etiquette and digital hygiene are so rich in content. I am implicated here, as I have used at least two different email accounts for readers. The active one is: dearsmartphone@outlook.com but there is a different one (not in regular use) at gmail.

With the communications issue you describe it’s nearly impossible to figure out if the update needs to rest with the sender, the receiver….or in- between?!  It’s quite unlike a physical street address. Keep in mind that the storage of contact info. can be in different places ; moreover, when we search email providers, the rules are in flux. The platforms we preferred in 2000, when we first entered these contacts, may no longer conform with the rules/ privacy of 2021.

Most of all,  it’s hard to back-out information- we just keep adding to it. The cyber trail we all leave behind is reminiscent of outer space. We send up more and more vehicles, and after they complete their mission they jettison debris and space trash that continue to stay in orbit.

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