New U.S. Trust Program Helps Clients Avert Online Risks

Wealthy seek ways to guard digital assets, online reputation, privacy and security

Managing digital assets has emerged as an essential part of the modern wealth management and planning process, and clients are increasingly looking for ways to address emerging risks.

This week, U.S. Trust said it had expanded its Financial Empowerment Program, adding interactive learning and discussion guides to help clients and their children or heirs protect the value of their digital assets, online reputation, privacy and security.

“From social media profiles to online banking and digital photos, virtually everyone today has a digital footprint that can have a profound effect on their personal, professional and financial lives,” Chris Heilmann, U.S. Trust’s chief fiduciary executive, said in a statement.

“Digital assets have value beyond their monetary worth and need a plan to protect them. Increasingly, our clients are asking for tools and advice to prepare themselves and the next generation from emerging risks.”

The bank said it had developed the expanded program based on client feedback and proprietary research in 2013 that showed the following:

  • 63% of high-net-worth individuals had not outlined wishes and instructions for their digital assets.
  • 45% had not organized passwords for accessing digital accounts and files

One module in the new learning program provides an overview of digital assets, including online personal, social, financial and business assets, and their monetary, sentimental and “good steward” value.

It explores trust and estate issues related to digital assets and privacy laws surrounding them. These include ownership of and access to social media sites, photos, health records, loyalty programs, business intelligence and other confidential information.

Another module discusses how and why online information can have deleterious effects on a person’s personal, educational or business and legal affairs, and it doesn’t matter whether the information was posted by the user himself, family members, friends, employees, the news media or other third parties.

The module offers action steps that show how to proactively monitor and manage online presence, protect and secure confidential information, and clear up mistakes or inaccuracies.

A third module shows how to recognize and avoid identity theft and fraud risks, including computer and device hacking and phishing, telemarketing schemes and scams involving charity and inheritance.

It includes actions steps for what to do if personal information is compromised or identity theft is suspected. In addition, a “Digital Inventory Worksheet” can help the user organize and manage a digital footprint.

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