When the sub-prime mortgage crisis hit the US in 2007, many people lost their homes, either due to financial issues with their mortgage, unpaid taxes or both. This naturally created abandoned real estate, or ghost towns. These empty properties continue to make nice neighborhoods look not-so-nice and in turn, drive down property values.
I am no financier, mortgage broker or salesman. I am an Internet investigator. So the real estate I deal with is not “real” at all, it is more like Virtual Estate. Lately, when I walk around my neighborhood (the Internet), I increasingly find ugly, unkempt ‘Virtual Estate’ everywhere. You see, when sites like Geocities (of 80’s & 90’s fame), or more recently Myspace, discontinue proper upkeep of their websites, it creates an abundance of pages with broken links and improper formatting. This equals ugly.
Now until these slumlords of the Internet decide to fix-up or shut down their abandoned Virtual Estate, the task is left to the user.
The average user may not necessarily care that their old Myspace or Bebo profile lay in disarray. But the unsightliness of these webpages is not the only reason a person should close down unused profiles. The other is the big ‘P’, Privacy. You would not think it prudent to drop a copy of your driver’s license and credit card in envelopes all around town, would you? By leaving these abandoned profiles online, data is left open to not only investigators like myself, but also criminals. Think for a minute about how much data is stored in your online accounts (ex. Name, Address, Phone, E-mail, Secret Questions, etc.)
If you look at the extensive list of companies and their customers that were recently effected by data breaches, you will see just how susceptible we all really are. As Internet users, we need to be responsible, keep our lives somewhat private and be careful with whom we share our details. I personally do not accept friend requests on Facebook from those who I only consider acquaintances. After all, they are called ‘Friend’ requests for a reason. I also closed my Myspace account over a year ago, due to the same non-use as described above.
As an Internet investigator and privacy fanatic, I implore everyone to sit down and make a list of all websites they have ever created a profile or account with, then determine which ones are no longer in-use and start spring cleaning. Just go to the target website, where you will likely find instructions on how to close your account, which are usually searchable in the FAQ or Help sections.
For additional reference you may also utilize a helper website like www.deleteyouraccount.com, which assists in finding the instructions for you.
Now help make our Virtual World a nicer place in which to live and place that trash at the curb! ~The Hi-Tech P.I.