Following Its Revamp, Yahoo Email Forwarding Bug Leaves Users’ Inboxes Empty

Yahoo Mail has been experiencing a major bug, following its revamp earlier this week. According to a number of reports, the service has been automatically forwarding emails to users’ “alternate,” external email addresses – a setting that was switched on without users’ permission. Yahoo has replied to some help requests via its Twitter account @YahooCare, but it hasn’t replied to help requests on its UserVoice forum, nor has its Customer Care site offered a solution to this problem.

We’ve also reached out to the company for information on this and will update if/when we hear back.

Some of the affected users have contacted TechCrunch tips and staff about the problem. It seems the bug has been in the wild for some time. Yahoo’s Mail upgrade took place on Tuesday, Oct. 8, when it introduced 1 TB of storage, “Mail Plus” features, and more. Complaints began showing up shortly after.

In Yahoo Mail, as in many other webmail providers, users had previously been able to configure a secondary address, which could also be used to send their Yahoo Mail elsewhere through an auto-forwarding option, which could be switched off or on. But after the Mail upgrade this week, that auto-forwarding option was set to “on” for some users, even though they had not switched it on themselves.

The result was that users were not getting their emails at all, not realizing that they were being sent to an alternate inbox.

As one tipster lamented to TechCrunch, “Yahoo support wasn’t any help, and after a couple of days I finally figured out that all incoming email was being forwarded to an old Hotmail address that I haven’t used in nearly 15 years. Making the situation even worse, it appears that the Hotmail address was recycled and is now being used by someone else, which is potentially a huge privacy/identity theft issue,” they said. (Security issues around recycled email addresses was another complaint Yahoo recently had to overcome itself).

Another complaint on Yahoo’s UserVoice site reads:

“Auto-forwarding was turned on for my account without my request or action. For over a day, my mail was being forwarded to a DEAD corporate account to a company that I have not worked for over 3.5 years!! This resulted in valuable lost mail.”

Meanwhile, others say they couldn’t get help through Customer Care, and one person even writes that while trying to submit “Feedback,” that page wasn’t working either, leading to error messages. Similar complaints are found on Twitter, too, with some @YahooCare responses asking users to check to see if they could switch the setting off.

The account then tweeted this morning in response to one user that, after checking with the Mail team, their issue — which appears to be related to auto-forwarding — was fixed. But the account is still responding to these kinds of requests, so it’s unclear if that’s the case for all.

This could be a problem for Yahoo’s attempts at revamping its image. The massive amount of storage Yahoo Mail now offers is tempting for new or relocating email users who may be considering between top webmail services like Gmail, Microsoft’s, and Yahoo, for example. But while no service is immune from issues (Gmail experienced lengthy email delays last month), anything less than a smooth transition from “old” Yahoo Mail to “new” Yahoo Mail could keep users from placing their trust in the company’s infrastructure for something as mission-critical as email.

Really, though, the larger problem here is not that the auto-forwarding was happening (though that’s bad, bugs do happen), but that Yahoo hasn’t publicly addressed the issue (unless you count Twitter support), nor did it reply to those complaining of problems on the forums and through other channels, from what we’re hearing. There’s no reason a rep couldn’t quickly reply on UserVoice at the very least, saying “we’re looking into this now,” or the Mail blog couldn’t post a short message, even if Yahoo doesn’t have a fancy “app status” dashboard like Google.

Without an official comment from Yahoo, we can’t confirm how widespread the issue is or where we are in terms of a fix. This could be a minor issue affecting a small percentage of users, or it could be larger.

Below, a Storify collection shows some examples of the complaints.

[View the story “Yahoo Mail Bug” on Storify]
UPDATE: To close the loop on this somewhat, it’s 7:30 PM ET, and Yahoo has not provided comment. We did hear they’re aware of the request, however, and were working on a statement.