I have noticed a certain activity which strikes me as odd and somehow suspicious. A few weeks ago, a user posted a question; after two answers were posted to this question, the user deleted their account (the question itself is not deleted, presumably it cannot because it has answers with upvotes). A few days later, they created a new account (but with the same username as the account before) and asked a second question, very related to the first one. After I gave some ideas in comments, user deleted the question and their account again. Now a few days ago, user had again created an account under the former username (so my attention was raised) and posted another question to a very related topic. After another user and myself brought up some mathematical issues and ideas in the comments, again the user deleted the question and their account.

FYI, the questions themselves were decent, albeit easy to answer and without context about where they came from, which now raises my suspicion (the suspicion being that they might be exercises from a course or guiding questions for an undergrad thesis etc.).

From my browser history I have direct links to the two deleted questions as well as to the one which still stands. Since the user accounts have been deleted, all I see there are "dead" account numbers as in user:xyz. With the feature in Is it possible to search past answers of a deleted account? I can see many still existing questions to unrelated topics from the oldest one of the dead accounts, but nothing for the others, not even the ones I have direct links to, presumably because they had already deleted the question before they deleted their account. (It's strange though that they have been re-using their user name whenever they created a new account, that's how I remembered.) Of course they might also have gone through the procedure more times than that, there seems to be no way of checking that.

I am aware of Why do some users delete their questions after receiving an answer?. The problem here is the user deleted their account after receiving an answer, and deleted questions which had no answers but more or less helpful comments.

Just wondering what I should do? Undelete and/or flag the questions? Or leave it there and just wait if they come back with another account and/or related question, and then ask them directly what's going on?

UPDATE: I've flagged all three questions (the one that still exists with answers, and the two deleted ones) for moderator attention. Admittedly, I'm not sure what the mods are supposed to do with that besides being aware of the issue.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I am surprised that the question was not deleted with their account. When I answered such a question (the question and my answer were upvoted; my answer was accepted even) the question was deleted when their account was 'destroyed' (timeline link.) I flagged the question with a custom message asking for undeletion of the question and the question is currently undeleted (though, now I know it was in the close queue). In any case, probably best is to flag an answer/question with a message of your suspicion and let the mods worry about it $\endgroup$ – Calvin Khor Apr 30 at 7:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hm. On a further google it seems that my situation is different, as foreshadowed by the odd term "destroyed". I still think the action should be the same $\endgroup$ – Calvin Khor Apr 30 at 7:30
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ They might be new to the internet and might be confusing "log out" with "delete account." Or they might be one of those identity/privacy paranoid people who prefer to not leave any traces of themselves online. $\endgroup$ – N Unnikrishnan May 9 at 8:03
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Even if that is the case @NUnnikrishnan, I think this is bad behavior. It's easy to be completely anonymous on Stack Exchange if you don't link your account to any others and use the default user1234567890 default. It's antithetical to the purpose of Stack Exchange which is primarily as a knowledge repository. $\endgroup$ – Cameron Williams May 10 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ @CameronWilliams True, but why should any relative outsider care about the 'purpose' of Stack Exchange if they get what they need regardless? $\endgroup$ – Weckar E. May 11 at 3:30
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @CameronWilliams cynical take - it's only completely anonymous in so far as it doesn't link back to the real you that needs food and drink to survive. Your math.SE profile is populated over time with links to posts that signal your writing style, fluency in english, mathematical background and interests, other interests via your other SE profiles, and willingness to adhere to the customs of the site, among others. One sometimes sees comments like "You haven't accepted any answers to your other questions", and we should treat New Contributors better. Deleting accounts cleans this slate. $\endgroup$ – Calvin Khor May 11 at 4:54
  • $\begingroup$ This used to be much worse. In the past, users who've made only one post had their accounts deleted immediately upon requesting it. Now, there's a 24-hour waiting period for such users, but if a mod doesn't arrive within that time... $\endgroup$ – gparyani May 13 at 18:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .