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Pandemic Tips #10 – Business and home backup access

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With the Covid-19 pandemic raging, the possibility of an individual being incapacitated for a time, or even passing are much higher than normal. With much of our lives dependent on internet based accounts, this could have repercussions for families and homes. 

Would the family or others in the business be able to pay bills and manage critical accounts if a person is incapacitated? 

In the case of families, can someone else access bank accounts, pay the mortgage and access health insurance accounts? 

In the case of a small business, is there an alternate individual who can pay all the bills, respond to critical customer correspondence, maintain licenses and access bank accounts? 

General concepts

Medium and large organizations will generally have a business continuity plan that will provide a path to make sure all critical needs are met if one or more individuals cannot perform their duties.

Many individuals will have set up legal power of attorney documents that would allow someone to be able to act on behalf of an incapacitated or deceased individual.

But, here are the problems.

If you don’t have a power of attorney set up, it will be difficult to set one up in the middle of a pandemic. Many states have shut down attorneys as ‘non essential’. Self service options such as Nolo might require a notary public. 

None shall pass

Even with a power of attorney in place, the reality is that much of our business is tied to internet accounts. The process for gaining access to things such as a Google account is cumbersome if not impossible. With companies being stretched, it is even more difficult to gain access to an account.

What could go wrong.

Some examples of issues that could arises would be:

  • Expiration of a domain name registration – This would be a major issue for many small businesses. If you domain name lapses during a crisis, you could lose it. Companies that handle registrations such as Godaddy have layers of safeguards to prevent theft. If you get the credentials wrong 3 times, the account is locked for 24 hours. They cannot bypass that.
  • Bank accounts – If a primary earner or treasurer in a company is incapacitated, can someone write checks and/or deposit/withdraw funds?
  • Health insurance – Can a family member access health insurance information for the family if the primary account holder is disabled?
  • Other – You need to evaluate your specific situation to determine what accounts are critical.

Possible solutions

Make your critical account information available to someone.

This entails a LOT of risk. You REALLY need to trust the person who will be given the credentials. This should not be done online or even using a computer. Ideally, a hand written list would be best as that can’t be hacked.

You could provide it directly or perhaps put it in a lock box and provide the key/combination to another trusted person. That way, two people would have to concur before the credentials would be available.

Some online accounts would allow you to designate an alternate contact. You would need to identify all of your accounts and go through them one by one to see if an additional contact can be added.

Google accounts

For many people, their Google account/Gmail will provide access to a majority of their accounts. However access to this account provides a LOT of sensitive personal information.

Phones and 2FA

An increasing number of online accounts require “Two Factor Authentication” This means that in addition to a user ID and Password, you might need to enter a code sent to the phone. Be sure that if you are providing your account credentials, you also make sure that the person getting those credentials can access your phone. If the phone can only be accessed through facial recognition or fingerprint, you need to make sure that it can also be accessed through a pin.

Once again, they will be able to see EVERYTHING. Every text, every email, every app you have installed.

Warning

In some cases, the rules and policies of the account may preclude providing your credentials to another person. Read the fine print.

Summary

The incapacity of a key family or business member can make a bad situation much worse. Do some planning to make sure that the family or company has access to the critical accounts.

Image:- Clker-Free-Vector-Images / Pixabay

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COVID-19 Pandemic Information

See our Prepping and Survival Category for tips, tricks and hacks to help with the current Covid-19 outbreak.