Trying to close your AOL account is suspicious activity

A few days ago, AOL fired the staff developing AIM, its long-running instant messaging system. Having done this, it reset user accounts, locking them out of third-party IM clients until they confirmed and updated decade-old personal information. Having done so, I was displeased at such a shameless data mining ploy and tried to cancel AOL/AIM entirely. This is what resulted:

Bear in mind that I was already logged in and could change any account setting I pleased. Who knew that when AOL said it has "no plans" to end service, it was responding to customer demands?


    1. For real. Closing my AOL account (nearly a decade ago) was by far the worst and most frustrating online experience I’ve ever had.

        1. Yeah, but my my credit card issuer wasn’t much help, essentially telling me that I’d have to close the card account to stop the AOL charges, which I did. But that didn’t stop AOL, which continued to try to bill me, and eventually sent me a threatening letter demanding payment for six or so months of service. I ignored them, moved soon thereafter, and haven’t heard anything from them since.

        2. Any business you’re contracted to pay recurrently can hold your credit rating hostage if you just cancel the standing order.

          Recently, it took me four months to cancel a mobile internet dongle contract without them sending me “NON-PAYMENT MAY ADVERSELY AFFECT YOUR CREDIT SCORE. ALSO WE GOT BAILIFFS” letters. Vodafone are as bad as AOL at this crap.

  1. I just tried checking in on my (extremely inactive) AIM account to try and delete mine as well.  Trying to log in I got a EULA screen.  So I thought “screw that” and went to their help site and went to the “contact us” screen… where it wanted me to log in and agree to the EULA.  What if I don’t agree to the EULA, and don’t agree to having an account any more?

    edit: I decided “what the hell” and clicked “agree”. Now to get any customer service at all requires a paid AOL subscription. What a joke. There’s a “feedback” button… maybe that will do something.

    1. Out of habit, I still have AIM in use via Pidgin on the computer I’m typing this response from. It seems that I can still access the service just fine without any information updates whatsoever. I wonder if that means I’m exempt from the new EULA?

      1.  I just checked mine through Kopete. 
        My information was false, 15 years ago. 
        They can keep it. 

      2. I do the same thing. Pidgin wouldn’t let me use my AIM account until I went through the information-checking process. Maybe it only happened that one day? It was quite annoying, though. I didn’t know if the problem was with Pidgin or what.

        1.  Could be that. I don’t really pay attention when an account won’t connect for a while since services seem to go in and out intermittently anyway.

  2. It’s customer service like this that reminds me of the time I was working for MSN’s dialup internet tech support department (around 2005), and I got a call from a gentleman with AOL. He hadn’t called the wrong number; he was calling MSN in desperation, because AOL’s tech support was beyond useless.

    1. I took other carrier’s cellphone equipment calls at Sprint, we rocked. During our training, we had access to many cell phones. And when someone called in, we had a box of charged phones to sift through to find the customers phone, it made it so easy to walk the customer through their phone’s operations. 

      1. That’s a great example of a right way to do customer service!

        … but that box of phones can’t be cheap, and keeping them charged costs electricity too! That money’s coming out of the shareholders’ rightful dividends! You were hurting your business! WHY DO YOU HATE FREEDOM!!!11one

      2. Unfortunately for him, in addition to the obvious policy limitations, my hapless gentleman was needing assistance with the gunky details of technically supporting the AOL client software, and some error messages relating to his account, and I just didn’t have that info. Didn’t have access to the secret sauce.

        I did however work for T-Mobile out of that same center when the client contracts switched, and we had limited rights to go access other info outside the intranet to help someone with an unsupported phone (at times, this policy changed). Being an outsourced center instead of a corporate-run operation, we rarely got phones, T-Mobile-branded or otherwise, though I did get to play with a G1 before it launched.

  3. I’m glad I never had an AOL account back in the day. I knew a friend who had one, the only thing I remember about it was that it gave him access to extraordinarily creepy message boards.

  4. But it _is_ suspicious.  Why would any sane person want to delete a disused account on a dying messaging service?  You must be one of those trouble-makers who wants to deprive this dear, sweet company of your pseudo-person shell.  You probably kick puppies, too.

  5. I am continuously surprised that AOL even exists still….They always sucked. Anyone remember the lovely and talented .art graphic format?

    1.  I can only recall the masses of AOL discs that were EVERYWHERE at the turn of the century. We used to play Decapito with them and whip them at one another. They’re spectacular when they shatter.

        1.  The discs made fine coasters and the occasional tin mailer made excellent containers for flat stuff.

  6. All it takes is logging into There is a screen where it demands your personal information – if you click the button to “remind you later,” it will immediately log you out but then allow you to use AIM on your third party client again without updating anything. 

  7. I seem to be happily logged into my AIM account using Messages (OS X), and I haven’t done anything to verify any information with AOL, agree to any EULAs, or anything else. Curious.

    I don’t think I’ve actually IMed with any of the people on my AIM buddy list in years, though. I still keep in touch with some of them … via Facebook (though not Facebook chat). I do all my IMing through Gchat nowadays.

    1.  In those days AOL had the best coverage for local dial-up. 
      Out in the sticks it was either AOL or no interwebs at all. 
      Then I found out I didn’t need an Internet provider account at all for dial-up, and used random accounts to get to the net. 

      1. 1) Thanks for your input, but I was actually asking the author of the thread, Rob.

        2) I understand starting with an AOL account many years ago.  I don’t understand why someone who actually works on the internet would still pay for an AOL account.

          1. Thanks for that info.

            Do you know why someone would use it, instead of the many other message services now available?

        1. 1) I knew that, got carried away… 

          2)  I was just assuming Rob’s AIM account was a remnant of the olden days. 

  8. To be objective and fair, a request to delete so soon after a reset could be taken as a phishing attempt. That being said, I’m not interested in standing up for AOL.

  9. I didn’t get an EULA or a demand to enter information, but I followed AOL’s own steps to canceling my free account, this article made me question why I even still use it, and after getting the confirmation that I canceled… nothing happened. I was still logged into AIM and to the account, I erased AIM, followed the steps again, logged out, and was still able to log back in. I sent a terse comment through the feedback asking to have my account truthfully shutdown.

  10. I know a fella who used to used to connect two computers together to share files for work purposes. One day he foolishly started using AOL as an internet provider, he quickly found that a standard windows menu option had been removed from the system and was replaced by AOL’s own window that had disabled the previously available connectivity function. This new window had the option to re-enable this stolen function, but you had to pay AOL for the privelage. I knew then that AOL were jive ass MFs.

  11.  Trying to close your AOL account is suspicious activity?

    Trying to use your AOL account is suspicious activity, Rob.

  12. Cool story: a friend of mine just linked me to this article, but just to point out the new moderation policy She was making a joke about being able to moderate face-to-face conversations. Recalling this article–which I read earlier today–I thought it odd to require use of accounts to post in a comments section. Until I checked this: Founded by AOL in 2009. Good times.

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