Protecting Your Virtual Life

 

Protecting your virtual life should be a life-long consideration. What information do you want everyone to know about you or find on the Internet?

When young, my niece posted questionable photos and information on the internet that appeared on my Facebook page because we were friends. As a result, I secretly “un-friended” her.

How often does this happen that friends and acquaintances share too much on social media? Not everyone realizes, that what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet – forever!

The Positives of Having a Virtual Life

That being said, having a virtual life connects us to others in ways that can be beneficial. Social media can preserve relationships and be time efficient.

While one might never think of making a phone call to a friend at 10 o’clock at night, an email might be sent to let someone know they are in your thoughts, knowing they may receive it the next morning.

Networking sites like LinkedIn are great for connecting with business colleagues and keeping track of the whereabouts of colleagues.  Facebook is a great vehicle for tracking down long-lost grade school, high school, and college buddies.

A Social Life for the Socially Isolated

The internet opens up a world of social contact for individuals who spend a great deal of time at home including the homebound elderly. The internet also provides significant amounts of education and information previously only accessed in the encyclopedia at the library. The information on this website is one example.

Let us also not forget that information we post is also used by potential employers, internet predators, and thieves who might find it very interesting that you are posting vacation photos on Facebook.  Might you NOT be home?  What a great way to let burglars know that NOW is the perfect time to break into your home.

Spam, Phishing, and Dangerous Connections

Because email and social media sites are constantly hacked you might wonder about protecting your virtual life. Emails telling you a friend is stranded in some foreign country and needs money.

The government calling you at home to tell you that you haven’t filed your income taxes or the electric company saying you haven’t paid your bill. Don’t return these calls. Instead, report them to the FTC National Do Not Call List.

It can be challenging to know which emails to open and which emails to delete.  My advice, change your passwords often and do not make them easy to decipher.  Use capital and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols that are at least 8-10 characters.

Do not use the name of your spouse, your children, or your pets especially if you have shared this information elsewhere on the internet. Protect your virtual life as you do your physical life and keep private information private.

Online Purchases

Then there are the items we collect and purchase online. What about I-tunes, downloaded books, online games, and family photo albums?  What happens to these when we die if we do not leave a list of passwords accessible somewhere like in a safety deposit box?

Imagine how many personal online accounts exist of persons now deceased. I have acquaintances still showing up on Facebook on their birthdays who have been deceased for years.

Appointing a Legal Agent to Manage Your Virtual Life

Online accounts and personas can be managed by appointing an agent under the power of attorney and creating legal documents. So give thought to the idea that if something happened to you, who would protect your virtual life and everything that goes along with computer access and the internet?

Maybe it’s time to create those estate planning documents that you’ve been putting off until tomorrow?

© 2012, 2013, 2022 Pamela D. Wilson.  All Rights Reserved.

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