Why Cancel Online Accounts for Loved Ones?

Digital Legacy in the afterlife

When someone dies, friends and family shoulder the enormous responsibility of graciously closing out aspects of the loved one's life.

In addition to coping with their own feelings of grief and sadness, family members have to make funeral arrangements, prepare an obituary, and perhaps even help handle their loved one's estate.

Along with all of the additional roles and responsibilities, the lingering online presence of the deceased love one occasionally falls through the cracks. Though it's not always the first thing people think about, canceling online accounts of deceased loved ones is an incredibly important part of the process. Here is why it's vital to consider the digital presence of a deceased loved one:

1. Social Media Reminders are Distressing for Loved Ones

Losing a loved one conjures incredibly complex feelings, the foremost among them the feeling of grief or sadness. For weeks, months, or years, simple things like a familiar scent or a favorite song can bring you right back to those emotions. While eventually these reminders can become gentle and nostalgic memories that keep the deceased loved one in mind, there is no need to receive digital reminders.

If the deceased had a Facebook or LinkedIn account, social media followers will, unfortunately, continue to receive reminders of certain events: birthdays, special occasions you celebrated in the past, and important anniversaries. Although it's a gift to be able to remember special occasions like these, it's not helpful to be reminded of these events via an unfeeling notification on a social media site. These are special moments to be celebrated among close families and friends, and there's no need for social media involvement. By canceling or memorializing a loved one's Facebook account, you can take control of those reminders.


2. Identity Theft for Financial Gain

Unfortunately, cybercriminals often exploit remaining online accounts of the deceased for financial gain. According to the AARP, an incredible 800,000 people are targeted by identity theft criminals every year after death. This is particularly insidious and difficult to catch right away because after your loved one passes away, no one is keeping tabs on their credit report to track suspicious behavior.

Criminals gather information from online profiles or hack into accounts and then use the deceased person's information to open credit card accounts, sign up for services like utilities, or even get approved for loans. Some might even use this information to file taxes under the deceased person's name and collect their refund. It's difficult to fight back against cybercriminals who are becoming more and more adept at scamming innocent people, but canceling a loved one's online accounts can help protect their private information.

3. Confusion for Others

Close families and friends aren't the only ones who can be distressed by online notifications and reminders. Think about this from the perspective of an old friend from college or a potential employer. If, for instance, the deceased still has an active LinkedIn account, it can continue triggering "someone you might know" notifications for years afterward. This is not only distressing for those close to the deceased—but can definitely create confusion for distant acquaintances as well.

No one should have to find out about someone's passing via a LinkedIn or other social media message or notification. No one should have to send email after email to a deceased person's account, feeling as though the email is being received but simply not answered. It's important to prevent potential employers or acquaintances from reaching out to someone who's passed away, and the best way to accomplish this is to cancel the online account. 

4. Bots: Automated Accounts from Personal Information

When we think about identity theft, financial exploitation often comes to mind first. However, there's a different kind of digital identity theft that's becoming more and more of an issue in our increasingly digital age. A recent article in the New York Times highlights the practice of stealing images and social identities to make "bots," or automated accounts. These automated accounts, scraped together using the names and photographs on abandoned social media accounts, are then sold on the black market.

Bots — which resemble real people because they're created from real personal information — can then be used to further political agendas, spread misinformation and toxicity online, and even be used to "bulk up" entrepreneurs' fake influence on social media.

Even in death, it's important to protect your loved one's memory from this ruthless political or commercial exploitation. By canceling these accounts as soon as possible, you protect your loved one's legacy and prevent their name and images being used to promote random online ideologies. 

5. Recurring Monthly Payments 

Aside from emotional and identity theft concerns, there are definitely some practical considerations as well. If your loved one had subscriptions for online services, they can still incur monthly payments even after their passing. In order to avoid this messy financial situation, it's important to cancel all online subscriptions the deceased might have had. This could include their Pandora account, Netflix, iTunes, or any other service with which they had a subscription.

It's important to understand that when these accounts are closed, any digital content like movies or songs contained in the account will be canceled along with the account. When someone purchases digital content like music through iTunes, they're not exactly purchasing the music itself. What they're purchasing is what's known as a non-transferable license. This gives them the right to enjoy the music they downloaded, but not to pass it along to anyone else. Legally speaking, companies like Apple are adamant about not transferring the digital license after death.

Let Us Help

We believe that the loved ones of those who pass away shouldn't have to deal with the confusion and difficulty of closing online accounts. That's why we offer our account closure service for the online accounts of those who've passed.

We can cancel monthly subscriptions, increase your guard against identity theft, and help make sure that your loved one's memory is respected. We're also able to perform a search and close —in order to search down accounts you may not be aware of. 

Get started now and protect them with our digital legacy services.