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Insecure password storage can lead to fraud, theft

Dear Mr. Premack: I have been storing my internet passwords in my Outlook program as notes. This makes it easy for me to look up a password. Is this fine for my legal planning, in case I become ill and my family needs to access my online banking and brokerage accounts? – JO

NO! Outlook notes are not password protected. Anyone who can sit at your computer will have full access to all of your private information because they will have unrestricted access to your password list. It is no more secure than having your passwords on notepaper sitting next to your keyboard (which far too many people do as well). Imagine the invasion of privacy and even the fraud or theft that could occur should someone untrustworthy see your passwords.

You need a secure password list. One option (since you own Microsoft Office) is to list your passwords in a Word or Excel document, and then to password protect the document. Doing so encrypts the document. You could store the file in your free OneDrive cloud, which is also password protected.

Another option is to use a password App for your smartphone or computer. Look at programs like RoboForm, LastPass or 1Password. Many of the programs will work both on your PC and your smart phone. Some of the VPN (virtual private network) services also offer included password encryption services. Look at NordVPN for example. And now a Dropbox subscription includes a password encryption service.

Once you have a secure password list, you need to share its location and the master password with your trusted insiders. The people you selected as Agents in your Durable Power of Attorney and the people you selected as Executor in your Will should be able to access your secure password list.

First published 11/14/2014


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