Help Desk FAQ

Identity theft


How do I create a strong password for my online accounts?

Identity thieves look for any opening to steal your personal information, good credit and money. To protect yourself online, you need to create a password that is virtually impossible to guess or recreate, even using a decoder program. This is particularly true if you conduct any financial transactions online—banking, shopping or investing, for example.

A strong password is one that appears to be a random string of characters, including letters, numbers and symbols. The longer the password is, the harder it is to decipher—so, for example, an eight-character password is stronger than one that has only seven characters, but not as strong as one with nine characters.

When creating a password:

  • Don’t use personal information such as your dog’s name, the digits of your phone number, or any other information that someone could easily pick up from the contents of your purse or wallet, a look around your home or office, or your social networking profiles and postings.
  • Don’t use real words.
  • Do create a password derived from a phrase that is easy for you to remember. For example, “I have two dogs and one cat” could become “iHaV2ds&1c.”
  • Do use a different password for each account to avoid having all your accounts at risk if one password is discovered.
  • Don’t keep your list of passwords on your computer unless you password-protect the document or use encryption software.
  • Don’t choose the option to have your browser or other software remember your password when you log in to an online account.
  • Consider using a "password manager"—an online tool for corraling and remembering all your passwords. Read reviews to select the one that's best for you (do an online search for "best password managers"—tech review sites offer updated lists every year).



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