Thursday, August 13, 2009
7 News Investigations: Password Protection
We've all got an line accounts for everything from email and Facebook to E-bay and Paypal. Not to mention all the bills we pay online, but have you ever stopped to wonder what would happen to that online information when you die? Seven's Craig Stevens tells us why we need Password Protection.
WSVN -- We spend hours in front of the computer e-mailing, paying bills, checking bank accounts, updating Twitter and Facebook, and of course shopping.
Michael Gold: "I have 45 online accounts from subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal to MySpace to my Gator Alumni Network."
Our personal information and our credit cards numbers are out there.
Susana Soler: "I have 17 accounts."
Most of us try to come up with creative secret passwords to protect our accounts and our identity.
Susana Soler: "I realized when I went to look back at all of my accounts and my passwords is that most of my things, mostly bills, Florida Power and Light, my car insurance, I don't even know what my password is."
But hardly anyone considers what would happen to all those accounts if we suddenly die. Jeremy Toeman found out the hard way when his grandmother passed away.
Jeremy Toeman: "When she died we were unable to get into her Hotmail accounts and find out who are some of the friends she might have had that we might not have known about."
Without usernames and passwords you can forget trying to access any online account, even if you can prove it belonged to a relative who died.
Jeremy was so frustrated by his grandmothers case he created a company called Legacy Locker.
Jeremy Toeman: "Legacy Locker is a site somewhere between a digital safety box and a digital will. It's a place where you can entrust all of your digital assets so that someone can get access to them in the event of your passing."
For $30 a year or a $300 lifetime membership, you make a secure will for your online accounts. Members input their user-names and passwords then just like a regular will they select beneficiaries for each account.
Jeremy Toeman: "I have a merchant account there might be credit to collect."
When you die, it gives that information to the people you designated. Michael and Susana are getting married in November. Taking care of their online accounts gave them peace of mind.
Michael Gold: "It really covers a lot of different ways that you can set up your assets should I walk out and get hit by a bus this afternoon."
That's especially true for automatic bill pay or online accounts like Netflix, where money is deducted from your bank account every month. If you die, you'd want someone to be able to access and shut down those accounts.
Even traditional estate planners are having to think digital. Ruben and Mark Gotlieb encourage their clients to consider their online accounts when making out their wills.
Ruben Gotlieb: "Used to be as an estate planner you dealt with the hard assets, but in today's society you really have to expand that."
Because people don't realize how expensive gaining access to online accounts can be for family members.
Mark Gotlieb: "G-Mail and Yahoo have been in legal battles and it's costly, it's very costly. It means going to court. They are privacy rules are very strict and protected on all those e-mail accounts, similar to E-bay and Pay-pal."
So maybe it sounds morbid, but as more people do more on line to avoid a web of trouble, it just makes sense to make password protection part of your planning.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: