Google 'Inactive Account' Warning A Mistake

John Lister's picture

Google users have reported an unexpected message saying their account is about to be shut down. It looks like a phishing scam but appears to actually be a bug in Google systems.

The reports came in a Google support thread that has now been deleted. More than 300 people "upvoted" the original posts, suggesting they had a similar experience.

The users were confused as they received an email saying "Your Google Account will soon be considered inactive" and that if they didn't log in it would be classed as having not been used for 18 months. That was a major surprise to users who'd been using their account daily, though some found they had been logged out on multiple devices. (Source:

Phishing Fears

The message caused alarm as it's similar to the approaches used by some phishing scammers who try to scare people into thinking there is a problem on their account or that they've been logged out for security reasons.

The idea of such scams is to panic the user so that they forget the usual advice to go directly to the site or service in question to log in rather than follow a link in the email. That link will usually take them to a fake login page such that the scammers can capture the password, giving them access to the account. That's a particular concern with a Google password that could give access to a Gmail account.

Legacy Account Bug

In this case, however, it appears there was no shady link as the message was genuinely from Google and the message should never have been sent. While Google doesn't appear to have posted publicly, users who got a reply through an online support tool say they were told it was a mistaken mailing from the legacy support service. (Source:

That's a system that lets users nominate somebody to get access to their account if they have not logged in for a set period, such as after their death. The user chooses how long this period is and will normally get a warning around a month before the deadline for not logging in expires and the access is opened up.

It appears the unexpected messages are purely down to a bug and don't relate to whether the user has activated the legacy contact feature or how long they set for their inactivity period.

What's Your Opinion?

Have you received such a message? Did you know about the legacy contact feature on Google? Have you thought about what happens to your online accounts after you die?

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