Inactive Google Account Warning Email: Is it a Scam?

A growing number of Google users report that they received an email explaining that their account will soon be marked as inactive, which could raise concerns of a hacking attempt. The problem with the post is that many claim their accounts are used daily and across multiple devices, suggesting either something is wrong with Google or it could be a phishing attack.

The term “phishing” is used when an attacker sends a fraudulent message to trick someone into sharing their login credentials, credit card number, or other personal information. Phishing attempts often start with an email or text message and usually try hard to appear to come from an official source. The message claims to alert the user to an urgent issue or a time-limited reward to claim, then provide a link or other way to contact the scammer to provide their personal information. Gmail users are rarely bothered by these scam emails because its advanced spam filtering system usually identifies these email attacks quickly.

An active thread in the Google Community Forum describes an issue where the user receives an inactive account warning, even though the account is definitely active. Some report that their Google account is used daily and logged in on multiple devices. When the email is received, the user may also be automatically signed out of all Google apps and websites on all devices, requiring multiple sign-ins when switching between devices. The first concern is whether it really is an email from Google or just a phishing attempt that passed through Gmail’s spam filter. Checking the email for suspicious links or contact information revealed nothing to suggest it was a scam. After contacting Google One’s online support about the issue, the response was that it appears to be a bug related to Google’s inactive account manager feature. In other words, it’s not a scam.

What happens to inactive Google accounts?

Google support has assured that an inactive account warning will not affect access to Google apps or result in data loss. The point to remember is that the email is not a scam or a phishing attempt to collect the user’s Google account login. Instead, it appears to be a bug where Google incorrectly marks certain accounts as approaching the point where they would be flagged as inactive, triggering a contact to have access to the “inactive” account. Also known as Legacy Contact, this option allows a Google Account owner to designate someone to receive access to their Google Account in case they stop using it.

This is usually a useful feature that frees up personal information for family and friends in the event of someone’s incapacitation or death. When the inactive account manager is activated, the user can choose how many months after the end of use the account is considered inactive. Google emails the user at least a month before this happens. This suggests that anyone who received this erroneous email might want to let the chosen contact know that an alert might be sent to them in about a month and disregard it. With a bit of luck, Google will have solved the bug before.

Source: Google

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