Over the past few months have you found yourself needing to reference an important document, but realize it’s in your office at work? Did you head to your vacation home for a change of scenery mid-quarantine, and realize something you needed was in your safe at home?
Many of us have used the time spent during stay-at-home quarantine to get organized. Maybe you even scanned your important documents, but where did you store them?
In today’s evolving world, more and more people are opting for the convenience and accessibility of a digital safe deposit box. A digital safe deposit box is a virtual, secure archive in which you can place digital copies of anything you want. Unlike the physical constraints of a bank box, most digital safe deposit boxes offer unlimited storage. This allows users to store anything from treasured photos to personal documents. Please see some software recommendations at the end of this article.
What you choose to keep in your digital safe deposit box is a personal choice, although it’s typically used for important health and financial documents, password storage and sentimental items.
You may want to consider storing items including:
- Driver’s License
- Birth Certificate
- Marriage License
- Health Insurance Card
- Insurance policies
- Tax Returns
- Investment and Bank Account statements
- Estate Planning Documents
If you’re about to embark on this project, some documents you’ll need to retain in their original form, but what about the rest? How do you dispose of them safely while protecting your personal information? Some types of paperwork should be shredded to keep your information from falling into the wrong hands. Some shredder-bound paperwork includes:
- Anything with Your Social Security Number A social security number can be used by others to seek out credit, obtain employment, or secure housing under your name.
- Anything with an Account Number Even a portion of an account number should end up in the shredder. These documents often have other pieces of identifying information, such as full name and address. Combined with the partial account number, a skilled identity thief is off to a good start. Most of us are able to retrieve statements online.
- Mail with Significant Amounts of Personal Information The more personal information on a piece of paperwork the riskier it is to keep it intact. This also includes medical bills and records that you do not need. Some bills and forms provide a lot of information about medical conditions and prescriptions that you would probably want to remain private.
- Photos of You or Family Members Not only can your photos be used to perpetrate identity theft, but they can also be used for other malicious purposes. To raise money on crowdfunding sites many people have used photos of other people's children to solicit donations or to make fake social media profiles.
- Junk Mail Yes, believe it or not, junk mail can contain a significant amount of personal information that identity thieves would love to gain possession of.
Once you’ve narrowed down what you need to keep, it’s time to get started scanning. Following are some simple tips to digitizing your important documents:
- Save everything in .pdf format
- Keep a back-up It makes sense to create a back up every few months and store it in a fire proof safe.
- Scan items as soon as you receive them You can put off naming and filing them, but scan them to a temporary file right away.
- Keep everything well organized and consistently named Folders and sub-folders are your friend! Consider adding a date that will organize chronologically for you, like 2020.07.10
- Purchase a desktop scanner with an automatic feeder and two-sided scanning The easier you make this on yourself the more likely you will stick to it.
- For most small jobs, try using smartphone scanning apps, such as Scannable, CamScanner or Scanner Pro. All are quick, will automatically trim to size the images and “whiten” them nicely. Plus, the apps export the images directly to cloud storage or email.
- Document the physical locations of important items Some legal documents, such as a passport, are only valid in their original form. However, you can also use a digital box to record the physical location of items such as your passport, will, bonds, etc.
A quick note on security: You’ll still need to practice good online precautions, never access your cloud vault from an unsecured WiFi network (airports, coffee shops, hotels). You can also add a layer of security by password protecting the most sensitive documents that have been saved as a .pdf.
Some personal document management sites also offer a digital inheritance vault. This is an internet-based service that allows you to place all of the information your loved ones would need in the event of your passing. Upon your death, the information is released to your beneficiaries.
Secure digital storage vaults or safe deposit boxes have increased in popularity throughout Europe and the U.S. for several years now. Highly secure digital safe deposit boxes are a banking mainstay, just as their analog counterparts have been for centuries.
The transition to digital vaults is something that insurance and banking institutions have embraced. Digital inheritance is a newer, cross-generational advertising tool that is gaining traction.
As part of staying proactive and prepared for the future, it’s important to take the time needed now to organize and identify what you or your loved ones will want access to. Utilize the unlimited storage space of a digital safe deposit box to provide a thorough roadmap for loved ones and preserve precious memories.
For you reference, following are a few personal document management web sites:
Clocr.com, plans starting at $2.99 per month
Digital Online Vault, plans starting at $4 per month
OneDrive Personal Vault, included with Office 365 subscription
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