Lefkovitz & Lefkovitz
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Bankruptcy trustees ask for passwords to online accounts

Tennessee debtors who file for bankruptcy might be asked about various assets, but they are normally not asked to provide passwords to online accounts. However, two Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees in Maryland have requested that debtors turn over their passwords to eBay, PayPal and Amazon Prime accounts, a move bankruptcy attorneys say is needlessly intrusive. The paperwork also says that the passwords cannot be changed for 10 days and the accounts cannot be closed.

It is not clear how many debtors have been asked for the information, what will be done with it or who will have access to it. However, one bankruptcy attorney pointed out that the request raised serious issues around cybersecurity because of the number of trustees and the lack of IT security. Furthermore, as another attorney pointed out, the question could have the effect of discouraging people from applying for bankruptcy. He said that attorneys might respond by suggesting that before filing, clients close those accounts.

While trustees have a right to inquire more deeply into financial matters as needed, the issue attorneys have with this approach is requiring the information at the outset. There are other ways to get the information that are less invasive, including asking for statements from the accounts or making sure to include the accounts in initial paperwork filed.

With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it is necessary to disclose all assets because some of those assets could be liquidated and the proceeds used to pay back creditors. However, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not supposed to leave a person destitute. Some assets can be declared exempt. A bankruptcy filing will also stop creditor harassment, at least on a temporary basis. Consumers who are struggling with their financial obligations and who would like to learn more about the process might want to meet with an attorney to discuss their situation.

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