Various surveys indicate nearly half of us use the same password for all our accounts, including banking, home computers, work, phone and utilities. Most of us use the same password for at least two separate accounts.
It’s sensible to use a different password for every account but that is easier said than done. One Moneywise reader claims to have 78 password protected accounts and asks how he is supposed to remember which is which.
Some accounts demand a mixture of letters and figures, some a capital letter, some require passwords of different lengths and others urge customers to change the password at regular intervals.
The sensible option is to memorise the most important password, which is the one for the bank account with the most money in it. Make sure that this password is different from all others, so that if your account is hacked the damage is limited.
If you have to write down other passwords, include a string of numbers alongside the password so they can be hidden in what looks like a mini phone directory.
If you use basically the same password every time, list your accounts on a piece of paper. Then, say your password is moneywise, change the first letter, M (the 13th letter in the alphabet) to 13 on the first account so the password is 13oneywise. Change the O (15th letter) for the second account so the password is m15neywise and so on down the list. That way you are keeping only a list of accounts, not the passwords themselves.
However, if you’re the editor of Moneywise, this wouldn’t work. You should never use something so obvious – and easily identifiable through what you post on social media or other information available online – as your workplace, home town or favourite football team.
Another option is to use the first letters of a song lyric – but try to think of something that isn’t popular.
Swapping letters for numbers and symbols can make your password even more difficult to guess. For example, a capital G looks a bit like 6, you could swap F for 4 because four begins with f, L and I both look like 1s, the letter O could become the number zero, plus the @ sign is a good alternative to the letter a.