AOL said that a sporadic technical glitch was affecting an "extremely small" number of people using its Web-based e-mail program, part of its "AOL Anywhere" plan for accessing AOL services from various outlets.
"We are aware of a technical issue affecting some members using AOL's Web mail," an AOL representative said. "We continue to investigate this internally."
The problem affects people who have changed their e-mail passwords and then find that their old passwords continue to give them--and potentially others--access to their accounts.
"I noticed over the last three to four weeks someone had been getting into my e-mail and forwarding it to other people," Joe Walters, a Los Angeles musician, said in an interview.
"AOL told me to change the password, but I'd already done that. Then I went to the AOL Anywhere Web site and typed in a password that was a month old and was immediately given access to all my information. The new password worked, too. This really jeopardizes my personal security and ability to conduct business on AOL."
AOL asserted that the problem was only cropping up in isolated incidents.