Are passwords making you crazy?

In this Workflow and Style article, I discuss how you can create passwords that will make your on-line services happy – and have you avoid losing your marbles should a log-in problem arise.

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The insanity of protecting your data 

I am getting a growing number of emergency calls from clients who can’t log into their on-line accounts. On-line services, for our protection, require us to create complicated log-in procedures – including complex passwords and security questions that we can never remember the answer to.

These forgettable log-in procedures are for our protection, of course, whether we like it or not.  Ugh.

How to avoid a catastrophe

In this article, I offer several handy techniques that will help you avoid the complications of forgotten log-in information.

Create THREE ready to use passwords

67b1ce3b-ae33-474b-9efe-c9a9e65e71cfYour on-line services want you to provide a strong password which requires the following:

Cannot include your last name

  • Must be at least 8 characters
  • Has at least ONE Capital letter
  • Has at least ONE number
  • Has at least ONE special character, such as !@#$%^&

So, if you have a favorite pet, child, or car, you might create the following passwords:

Assume you have a dog named Fluffy.  You might create the following three passwords:

      1. Fluffy123*
      2. Fluffy123**
      3. Fluffy123***

Why three?  There’s a growing possibility that your on-line service will ask you to change your password for your security.  Have a few extra passwords handy.

Security questions – create ONE memorable answer

To bolster the protection of your on-line account, banks, brokers, and doctors are requiring that you provide answers to three security questions.

They choose the questions.  You then struggle to create memorable answers.  Then, months later, when required, you don’t remember the answer.  After failing to provide the correct response, the service disables your account.  Your nightmare begins.  You must now contact the institution by phone and fight and scream with a security professional as you try to convince them you are not a hacker.

This is actually the easiest situation to prevent.  While the questions for any on-line service can be complicated and require hard to remember answers, the service provider doesn’t care what answer you create.  Believe it or not, they trust you to create the answer!

And so, create ONE answer for all questions.  Whether you need to remember your Mom’s middle name or the location of your public school, use the answer abc123.  Yes, use this for every questions on any service.  Done! 

Never lose your log-in information – a hybrid approach

As log-in procedures become more complex and forgettable, more Internet users are turning to apps and browser plug-ins that store and manage this information.  For the experienced technology user, this approach may make sense.

For the PC novice, I’d like to recommend a hybrid approach – part technology, part paper.

Create a PC passwords file, print it, save it 

Create a simple PC passwords file using Notepad, Word, or EXCEL.  Save this file on your PC Desktop for easy access.  If you use Dropbox, save it there.

Every time you establish a new on-line account or modify any log-in info, you MUST do the following:

      1. Update your passwords file
      2. Print it out
      3. Put printed copy in an envelope, date it, and save it with your other important documents (will, car title, bonds, etc.)

You can create a passwords file using any of the options below.

Option 1.  Create an EXCEL spreadsheet (password.xlsx) that looks like this:

Email Password Questions/Answers
Gmail Fluffy123* abc123
Amazon Fluffy123* abc123
TD Bank Fluffy123* abc123

Option 2.  Or, you can create a WORD document (passwords.docx) that contains the following text:



      • userid:
      • password: Fluffy123*
      • Answers to all security questions: abc123


      • userid:
      • password: Fluffy123*
      • Answers to all security questions: abc123

TD Bank

      • userid:
      • password: Fluffy123*
      • Answers to all security questions: abc123

Please consider the above suggestions

Log-in problems never occur at a convenient time.  Please consolidate this information and save it someplace where you can find it when needed.  Save a paper copy with your family documents.

Don’t forget to include the passwords to access your PCs and smart devices.

If you need help here or have any questions, please feel free to contact me.