Clients and their children are increasingly shifting their lives online, but that doesnt mean they are paying attention to how to protect their growing digital assets.
To address this issue, U.S. Trust, part of Bank of America Global Wealth and Investment Management unit, is expanding a financial-awareness program for its high-net-worth clients. The free program aims to help families protect their digital assets and teach children and grandchildren to become good stewards of the familys wealth, says Christine Courtnage, wealth strategist for U.S. Trust.
We realized that our clients children are born into a digital world, but they arent aware of the risks of that technology, she says.
The program, which is partially online, raises awareness about what digital assets are, the potential risks to them and the protective measures that can be taken. These assets include personal assets (videos, music, medical records), social accounts such as Facebook, financial information that comes from shopping or banking online, and digital business assets such as intellectual property rights.
Identity theft remains one of the most dangerous risks to these digital assets, Courtnage says. Protecting accounts with strong passwords can help prevent easy thefts of personal information, and properly disposing of paper with sensitive personal information is a must.
Sites containing personal financial information arent the only places where caution is recommended. Courtnage suggests clients avoid posting on social media about upcoming vacations, which could tip off others that their home will be vacant. Wait until you get back and then post pictures from your trip, she says.
Courtnage recommends additional protective measures such as designating someone to manage your assets in case you are incapacitated or die, and creating a digital roadmap that outlines what you have online and where.
Your digital assets live on, even if you dont, and there needs to be a way to manage them, she says.
People can also request their credit report for free once per year from a credit reporting company. Courtnage says this is a good method to see if someone is trying to establish credit using your personal information. Clients should also periodically search their own name using online search engines such as Google, to see whats out there about themselves.
U.S. Trusts financial empowerment program covers these and other topics in about 30 online modules. Clients, their children and grandchildren are also encouraged to come in person to ask questions of their U.S Trust advisor. Its all about starting the conversation, Courtnage says.