It’s one thing to receive an automated LinkedIn notification congratulating a colleague on another year of service at the company. It’s another story, when that colleague has only recently passed away.
It’s a taboo that many have sidestepped but the founders behind eClosure, Pedram Afshar, Martin Chee and Pouyan Afshar, haven’t been afraid to talk about the hard-hitting truths behind our digital assets once we pass away.
“There’s a lot of paranoia surrounding our online information. What happens is that these accounts linger on and on, making them susceptible to identity theft – they become an emotional toll on you and your family and it’s the last thing you want to think about,” says Pedram.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia experienced a $1.4 billion loss due to personal fraud in 2010- 2011 with approximately 25% of identity thefts belonging to those of the deceased. When left dormant, digital assets become a prime breeding ground for hackers with ‘online banking, social media and card-based transactions’ making up the greatest source of misuse.
That’s where eClosure steps in – the trio have designed a portal where friends and family of the deceased can opt to close down redundant social media and email accounts, by providing a copy of the death certificate. The startup is currently offering its services across Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, Pinterest and email providers but looks towards expanding into other services.
“We liaise directly with social networks, provide them with the requisite information and notify our clients after the account has been closed. It takes you 5 to 10 minutes to fill in our form on eClosure and we take care of the rest.
What we essentially provide at the moment is closure; we secure it [digital accounts], we memorialize it and erase any possibility of the misuse of online information.”
At present, eClosure’s crucial focus is on email accounts- “they’re a hub for sensitive information and run the greatest risk of passwords resets; it can bounce off other services such as PayPal and Amazon leading to a real monetary damage to the family of the deceased,” says Pedram. A recent McAfee survey also showed that people value their digital assets at up to $35,000.
Not surprisingly, Australia’s aging population have bore the brunt of personal fraud – studies have shown that 75% of those over 55 would prefer to close their online profiles but only a fractional 17% know how to do so. This trend is only set to rise as social media usage between 55-64 year olds was reported to have increased by 100% in 2013.
The young startup has already garnered the support of ten funeral homes since its launch in February, along with the backing of the Funeral Celebrants Association and Independent Funeral Directors Association of Australia. The Australian government has also jumped on the bandwagon, acknowledging the need for users to protect their online presence.
According to Pedram, a ‘truly holistic approach by an professional providing advice for our future should also address our digital legacy and online information’.
“So far, we have received positive feedback and we are starting to see that people are really beginning to understand the importance of tying up their digital loose ends.”