A lesson in digital reputation management from zombies

Your old web accounts are like digital zombies, stalking you from the shadows. Take a second to think back to all the websites, online services, social media platforms and other accounts you have signed up for over the years.

How many of the ones you no longer bother with have you completely deactivated rather than just ignored like muscles slowly atrophying? Here’s a scary lesson in online reputation management.

A recent PC World article explores the topic of “zombie accounts” and how we so often just stop using them and forget they are there, never actually shutting them down for good. Which means they are still out there.The article even cites one of the head honchos at Symantec Security Response who claims that while these zombie accounts can be hacked, they don’t necessarily present any greater risk than your active ones do. Survey says … wrong.

These forgotten accounts present an even greater danger – just one that few people are aware of. When the Facebook page you check every single day gets hijacked, you’ll likely notice pretty quickly, although it takes very little time to do very real damage. But, with a long-forgotten online account that you haven’t even looked at in five years, how are you going to know when someone else decides to use it to steal your identity or damage your digital reputation?

If you’re a business owner and prospective clients are surfing the Web to learn more about you, are you confident you know exactly what they’ll find? Are you really sure that no one has taken a website profile you set up then stopped using and turned it against you? Some people do this for fun, others to make money, but the bottom line is they do it.

Now is a good time to do a personal Web history audit. Make a list of all the sites and services you may have signed up with over the last several years that you no longer use and start deactivating them – officially. Your online reputation could depend on it.

John Sileo is an online privacy expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy, identity theft and fraud. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.