Other Ways To Connect

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Password Frustration


Another password to remember!
If you're anything like me, you get very frustrated that you need to have so many different passwords at various online sites to keep your information secure.

Depending on the level of security consciousness of a website,  your password may need to be very "strong" which means you have to include a combination of upper and lower case alpha letters with numbers and maybe even a symbol or two.  Honestly, this is the model you should use for all of your online sites.   It's hard to remember a lot of passwords with this type of strong format so you may be tempted to create one password that will work at all of your sites.  But that's dangerous too.  If  that one password gets into the wrong hands, then those hands have access to everything! 


Password Perils 

 

Our own Dr Hinrichs wrote a blog about password perils earlier.  Click here to read that helpful blog.  She mentioned using password vaults to help solve this issue and that is a great solution. I personally use LastPass where I add all of my passwords and associated web links into the vault, then use one very secure master password to access all of my sites.  Even I can remember one password!  Some may be afraid of using vaults too.  But education is key to understanding that this is a very secure and viable solution.  The vault option can be made even more secure with an optional device such as the Yubico.  If you register that device to your vault, anyone trying to access your vault is also required to have that device.   These are very affordable and secure options that will greatly reduce your password frustration level, yet keep your digital resources safe.

Is the fear justified?


Every generation has a "new thing" that comes along that makes them nervous and skeptical.  When electricity was new,  many feared it was emitting dangerous rays.  The phone was feared for various reasons; the automobile,  computers; the list goes on and on.  Cloud computing is the latest new thing in our generation.

When an organization gets "hacked", it makes big news.  But honestly, how often do we hear about that happening?  Yes, some sites do get hacked, and it's usually related to a process breach, a failure to encrypt data kept on the site, or an inside job.  It's not unlike the fear of flying because of headline news coverage of a plane crash.  Yet most don't fear traveling in cars even though the likelihood of an automobile crash is many times higher.

Are you the weak link?

 

In reality,  the greatest risk to security vulnerability is ourselves.  Some of the things that many of us do can result in our data being compromised and those things include: using a weak password, allowing applications to access our Facebook accounts (to play games for example);  using unsecured free Wi-Fi hotspots; open browsing (not using https);  and downloading various applications and software from unknown sources.   In general, you don't want to access your bank account from a machine that you (or your kids) have loaded random programs and games on, or access any important site while using free internet access someplace.  And remember, email is not secure.  Never send sensitive information via email.

There are many good articles on the internet that give information regarding what steps to take to keep your information safe.  One key tip is, be sure your web browser (IE, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, etc) is set to browse in secure mode.  If you're not sure how to configure that, here's a helpful link:  How To configure my broswer.

Most Important of all!

 

Physical security!  Don't keep important documents and personal information on your computers or other mobile devices that can easily be lost or stolen. That's what SafelyFiled is for!  Not only do we require a "strong" password, we also encrypt ALL information stored on our site, which means, even IF someone could get access to the servers, they couldn't access your information. Plus, this information is kept safe from flood, fire, sink holes and other natural disasters and is backed up for you regularly so you don't have to worry if you loose a hard drive.



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Should I Share With My Kids - and When?

They grow up too fast

When my two youngest children were little, I took them to the bank for an adventure.  We went to check out what was in the family safe deposit box.


Bank vaults are impressive, especially to a pre-schooler and a first grader.  The outside door is massive, with all these neat gears and two-inch-thick pins.  Inside, the rows of neatly arranged boxes, with their two keyholes and heavy metal doors go from ceiling to floor, and seem to stretch to the horizon.  And so, as the kids watched with wide eyes, the bank clerk and I took out the family safe deposit box.  The kids and I carried it to the quiet, completely uncluttered room, and we locked the door behind us.  Then, we opened the box like it was a pirate's treasure chest.

What We Found

 

There were a few gold coins and some silver dollars.  The kids thought that was great but weren't impressed with the amount.  I think they had visions of Scrooge McDuck's stash.  There was something else in there, however, that grabbed their attention.

As I was taking out the papers, they asked me what each one was.  There were marriage and birth certificates, house mortgage documents and some work-related items that needed to be kept safe.  One thick set of documents, bound up in a rubber band, was their older sister's adoption papers.  When I explained what it was, two little jaws dropped.  Eyes popped wide and then narrowed to slits.  I could tell they were trying to process this new information.  It had never come up before, but they had to know sometime, and this seemed like as good a time as any.  They were old enough to understand, not too old that they'd resent having the information withheld since they were born, and had enough patience to listen to my wife and me give the full story later that night at dinner.

And Today

 

The kids are grown now.  They love each other and have the type of relationship that would make any parent happy.  Because my son lives a two hour plane ride away, we really treasure the times when we can all be together.  We are, like just about every family I know, reluctant to talk about certain important issues when all we want to do is simply enjoy our time together.  Nothing like talking about your funeral plans to lighten up a party - Right?

But this is important stuff and I've been around long enough to know that sometimes you don't have a chance to let everybody know where everything is. And the kids are very busy with their own lives, so even if I gave them copies of my wife's and my wills, powers of attorney, and passwords for our bank accounts and digital assets, they wouldn't appreciate the burden of having to safeguard that information.  Besides, they don't need all this information now.  They just need to know that my wife and I have done something about it.  And they need to know where to find it.

So, I put images of all the documents, along with the locations of the paper originals in my SafelyFiled account.  The kids have access to certain documents, and they each have their own SafelyFiled account under our family plan.  We don't make a big deal out of this. But I know this important stuff is taken care of.  The kids will look up the important information and documents when they need to. 

Taking Charge

 

Sharing important information with your kids depends on the age and readiness of your child.  Sharing a will with a 12 year-old might result in a nightmare.  Not sharing a will with your 60 year-old daughter might cause a different type of nightmare.  If you have grown children who are struggling financially, sharing any financial information, especially if it's mentioned in a will, might cause a rift.  So be careful.

If you can avoid it, don't let circumstances, like a serious illness, dictate when the information is shared.  Do what you can beforehand.  Carefully and deliberately.  Consciously look for the right time.  Just try not to forget about it.

You know your kids.  Use your judgment.



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Grandkid's Artwork & Other Uses For SafelyFiled


Precious Keepsakes
 
I went into the kitchen to grab a snack from the refrigerator and had to push aside some precious keepsakes to access the door handle.  The artwork of my 3 grandsons had overtaken the appliance and I knew I had to do something with them soon.  But how do I show my appreciation and gratitude for their artwork without hurting their feelings or stifling their desire to create more for us?  I can't keep every piece of art on my refrigerator forever but can't bring myself to throw them away. Putting them away in a box is a solution but then I don't see them and the boys may be disappointed that their work is "put away".

Then it hit me.  The one thing they love to do even more than draw, paint and color when they visit, is play with my Ipad, Ipod touch or computer.  What if they could see their artwork on these devices?   They'd know how special their art was to me.  So special in fact, that I put them in a place where I can view them at anytime, from anywhere.  So, within my SafelyFiled account, I created a folder called Grandson's Art, then took a photo of their artwork with my smartphone and uploaded those photos into the folder.  I then added notes to each piece of art to include the date it was created and any special memories that were made during its creation.  I include other information such as their age when they drew it, the family activity that was happening at the time and even the sentiment they expressed when they gave it to me.  Creating a tag for their art will help me to find these photos later when I want to reminisce or for special milestone celebrations for them in the future such as a 16th birthday or high school graduation.  And if there's something extra special that I can turn into a gift for their parents or great grandparents, I can create a reminder on that artwork when the gift-giving time is near. 

Other Great Ideas!

SafelyFiled has so many uses that it seems we get more and more ideas every day from our users.  When we created SafelyFiled our focus was on storing important documents that you would normally store in a safe deposit box or need to have handy yet kept safe.  So we designed SafelyFiled with the appropriate security around it to ensure that type of data was kept safe.  But people are using it for even more!  We thought we'd share some of those ideas with our readers in the event any of these would work for you.  

  • Home improvement projects.  Take before and after photos of home improvement projects.  Then you can share these photos with an insurance agent, real estate agents or property assessment professional if ever needed.  Or just have them for your own records complete with the contractor's name who did the work, the money that was spent on the project, receipts, etc.  
  • Small business.  Small businesses can't always afford a big file sharing solution but may have staff that need to have access and share documents with each other.  But some files are very sensitive in nature so they don't want to store them on free or cheap document sharing sites where security isn't a main priority. SafelyFiled is great for that too.  One business account can be set up and staff members invited to participate in that account as associates so that they can access files when needed.  If a file needs to be updated, the associate can download the file, make changes, and upload it again.  SafelyFiled tracks all activity taken on a document whether it was added, viewed or downloaded complete with user ID and date/time.  Logging of activity on those shared documents is captured for you automatically.   The reminder feature in SafelyFiled is a very helpful tool for small businesses as well.
  • Non-Profit and/or Fundraising organizations.  Many of these organizations work with a large number of volunteer personnel and the same people may not be involved in a project from year-to-year. Keeping documented processes, points of contact, lessons learned, procedures and receipts in SafelyFiled, then giving temporary access to these folders and files as needed to get a project completed is a very smart way to ensure institutional memory.
  • Household Content Photos:  For insurance purposes, take photos of the contents of your home and high-value items and store them in SafelyFiled. Then share those photos and appraisal documents with your insurance agent in the event of a disaster.
  • Medical records and prescription medication.  We are encouraged more and more to take control of our own medical records as stringent HIPPA rules preclude sharing of your medical information between doctors.  If you had a medical emergency and you could not speak for yourself, it would be a great idea to have your own medical records and list of current prescriptions you're taking in a folder and shared with someone very close to you who could present this information in the event of an emergency. It could also be life-saving if they could access and present this information from anywhere with their smartphone.
These are just some of the ideas that have been shared with us.  With a storage limit of 1000 documents (which you can increase if needed), you can keep all of your important documents "SafelyFiled"!





Friday, March 1, 2013

Caring for my 90-year-old mother

After my Dad died, my sister and I realized that we needed to step up and help our mother manage her daily affairs.


She has macular degeneration and is legally blind, but still insists on living in the same house she’s been in since 1953.  She doesn’t want any help around the house, except for a lawn service.  (And my sister’s and my services as light bulb changers, appliance repair personnel, plumbers and electricians.)  She is still mentally sharp and her physical health is pretty good, though she does have a bad day every once in a while.  But who doesn’t?

The macular degeneration keeps her from reading her bills, but luckily, her bank has a good online bill-paying site and so my sister pays the bills electronically.  We see mom often enough so we can go through any mail and deal with what comes up.

The Lost Purse


My sister, living closer to my mom, has taken the lead on watching out for her.  But I am still very involved in her care.  Recently, my mom lost her purse along with all her IDs, credit cards and insurance cards.  My sister was able to quickly cancel her credit cards and I took care of replacing the Medicare and insurance cards.  Fortunately we had copies of what she lost, and replacement wasn’t too much of a problem. 

That replacement process made me realized how important it was to have access to certain documents, or at least copies of them.   So, for anybody taking care of an elderly parent, here's a quick list of documents that you should save for your parent, even if no lost purse is involved.  Depending on your circumstances, you probably have even more to add.


List of Documents 


Identification

  • Copy of Social Security card
  • Copy state ID card (Or driver’s license, if still current)
  • Copy of Passport (even if it has expired)
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate

Insurance

  • Medicare card
  • Medicare supplement insurance card
  • Long term care policies
  • Life insurance policies or certificates
  • Homeowners insurance policy
  • Umbrella insurance policy
  • Auto insurance policy
  • Auto insurance “Proof of Insurance” cards

Medical

  • List of medications from internist
  • List of medications from any specialist
  • Internist report (ask the GP or Internist to draft a short report, 2 or 3 pages, identifying all medical issues and the current course of treatment)
  • Specialist reports
  • Recent blood test results

Financial

  • A recent bank statement for each account
  • Copies of bank signature cards, showing all signatories on an account
  • Copies of credit cards or recent statements (If a statement, check to make sure the full credit card number is on the statement)
  • Annuities
  • Certificates of Deposit
  • Stock and bond certificates
  • Location of safe deposit box key and last billing statement for the box
  • Mutual fund / Brokerage account statement
  • Annuities
  • Bank statement
  • Stock broker / mutual fund statements
  • Recent Social Security reports (check them to make sure they're correct)
  • Income tax returns for as long back as possible (or pay stubs in case the Social Security office miscalculates amounts due and a challenge is necessary)
  • Work and Union records (there may be some life insurance or other benefits)

Home / Property

  • Trust documents for home
  • Mortgage documents or releases
  • Reverse mortgage documents
  • Title insurance policies
  • Warranties on furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners other home equipment

Emergency

  • Will
  • Living Will
  • Healthcare power of attorney
  • Property power of attorney
  • Medical power of attorney
  • Deceased spouse’s death certificate 

When you need these documents and one more point


Obviously we didn’t need all these documents when taking care of the lost purse.  But we will need all of these documents at some time.  Some, like certain documents listed in the Home, Financial and Insurance sections, are needed at least once a year.  Others, like some listed in the Medical and Insurance sections, become important when a medical issue arises.  Others will only become important during an emergency or after mom passes away.

And the final point.  Because of her macular degeneration, my mom occasionally misidentifies certain papers and in her efforts to tidy up the house, puts them where she thinks they should be stored, not where she, my sister or I would ever think to look for them.  Your elderly parent may misfile documents for other reasons.  But no matter what the reason, this is one area where you need to take the lead and have control of these documents.  This makes life easier for everybody.