AOL Disabling Inactive Email Accounts

Repost from Unica Blog

We've heard reports from numerous ESP
partners and clients that AOL has been sending back large volumes of
bounces due to the deactivation of old and unused email accounts.
Although the exact reasons for what constitutes an inactive email
account aren't 100% clear the numbers and reports we've been seeing range
anywhere from the documented 30 days in their Terms of Service (this document specifically
applies to screen names but also appears to cover email) to 90 days and
upwards of 6 months.

Marketers have to be very careful and take immediate action to
prevent these accounts from receiving further messages because it can
seriously impact their overall reputation and ability to deliver email
to AOL domains:

  • The number of hard bounces generated by an IP is tracked by AOL and
    other ISPs.
  • Sending too many hard bounces is an indication of poor mailing and
    list hygiene practices and will negatively impact your IP reputation.
  • AOL has deactivated old and unused accounts in the past. Once the
    accounts were deactivated they lay dormant for a period of time and then
    were reactivated as spam traps to monitor the behavior of mailers. Its
    quite possible that this could happen again with this new batch of
    deactivated accounts but AOL hasn't said one way or another as to what
    their plans are.

The deactivation appears to have started on or around May 20, 2010.
Marketers should expect to see higher than normal hard bounces (due to
deactivation) until they've mailed and received the bounces for all
addresses in their house files that were deactivated. There isn't a
specific bounce being employed for this, rather the two hard bounces normally associated with permanent

550 Mailbox not found
This error indicates that the AOL Member no longer exists on AOL or the
address is misspelled.

550 Mailbox not found
500 5.1.1 : Recipient address rejected:
Senders using scripts to remove unknown users automatically, should be
looking for both the new error code and the old one.

Overall this is potentially a good thing. A healthy list is one free
of inactive users and hard bounces. Consider this a kind of spring
cleaning and get those hard bounces out of your mailing systems as soon
as you can. If you are waiting for more than 1 hard bounces to mark an
email address as dead, consider shortening that to 1 hard bounce for AOL
bounces received in the last five days and going forward for a number
of days in order to refrain from re-mailing the deactivated accounts.

-Len Shneyder
Director of Deliverability & Messaging
Unica | Pivotal Veracity

4 Responses to “AOL Disabling Inactive Email Accounts”

  1. mike kunkel
    August 19, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

    sweep sure works good swept mine out aint worked since. So just change email name?NOWAYINHELL!!! have had same name for 50 years plus aint goin to change that. so if that new email is so good why and how does it do like that? smart people ? reinvent the wheel? if ya dont know what ya are doing, KEEP YOUR DUMBASS HANDSOFF.Possibly I willbe of helpto you as you wereto me. Sincerely Mike

  2. Neil
    August 31, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    I agree with Mike 100%.

  3. stavros
    January 31, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    I would like to unsubscribe from ArcaMax Publishing

  4. Thomas Sabo
    February 1, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    "I agree with Mike 100%." ME TOO