These days our online and offline lives are becoming more and more intertwined. We have real world bank accounts, but we access them online. We interact with our friends, but we do so both online and off. The mix of online and offline worlds makes our lives richer, but it also presents some unique challenges.
Many of those challenges rear their ugly heads when it comes to a breakup or divorce. If you have been sharing your life with someone, you have probably shared your most intimate online experiences as well. Your partner may know all your passwords, PIN numbers and other essential details. When the relationship goes south, that knowledge could easily be turned against you.
No matter what the reasons for the breakup or divorce, it is important to protect yourself and your online identity. There are certain steps you need to take to ensure your now ex-partner does not have the tools to make your life miserable.
Step #1 – Assess the Situation
The first thing you need to do is assess the situation and decide what steps to take next. Make a list of all the accounts you have, both individually and as a couple. It may take awhile to identify everything that could be at risk, so take your time and make sure the list is complete before moving on.
Step #2 – Change Your Online Passwords
Once you have identified all of your online accounts, you need to change the passwords immediately. If you have been sharing your life with a partner or spouse, that person probably knows (or can guess) your passwords. When you change the password, be sure to use something that your ex-partner cannot easily guess. That means no pet names, no birth dates and so on. If you have passwords stored on a shared computer, you will also need to delete them and clear the cache on your browser.
Step #3 – Wipe Your Personal Devices
If your ex-spouse or partner has access to your personal devices, you might want to wipe them and reload your data. It is easy for a spurned spouse to plant a keylogger or spyware program on a smartphone, tablet or laptop, and that malware can be difficult to fine. If your ex-partner is tech savvy, wiping your device and starting over is the best way to protect yourself.
Step #4 – Watch Your Social Media Behavior
Feeling betrayed and angry is normal during a breakup or divorce, but it is important to control your emotions – at least in public. We are used to sharing our personal lives in public – through Facebook and other platforms – but sharing too much about an upcoming divorce could be costly when it comes time to divide the assets. Watch what you say in public – and yes Facebook is a public forum. You will need the support of your close friends during this difficult time, but you should seek them out in person instead of online.