I recommend a system that stores a list of your passwords and PIN
numbers in your wallet. And, no, I'm not crazy.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
T e c h n o f i l e
Keep track of all your passwords and PIN numbers safely
June 3, 2007
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard
Do you have a hard time remembering all the passwords you use on
Internet sites? What about those PIN numbers you keep forgetting?
There's got to be a better way.
And there is. It won't cost a cent.
My method takes advantage of a little known fact of Internet safety:
If you store something on your PC in hopes of hiding it from snoopers
or from your kids, both the snoopers and your kids will find it in no
time flat. (I realize I sound a little facetious, but hackers and
14-year-olds are much more savvy than you might think.)
So I recommend a system that stores a list of your passwords and PIN
numbers in your wallet.
Have I lost my mind? Not at all. Here's what I recommend. First, you
encode your passwords and PIN numbers by creating fake (but plausible)
addresses and phone numbers out of them. Then you hide them in plain
sight, right where you normally keep such things. No one will assume
they're actually something other than items in an address list.
Start by collecting your Web-site passwords into a normal list, for
your eyes only. (You should delete or burn this list later. Don't keep
If you also have different login names, you'll need to write them
down, too, matched with the passwords. Here's an example: I have a
couple of Web-mail accounts that I use now and then. To access the
first one, I have to type my first and last names, put together into
one word. Then I type a password. To get into the second one, I have
to type a cute little catch-phrase. (Well, it was cute when I thought
of it. Don't be too hard on me.) Then I type a password that's
different from the one I use on the first account.
Then collect your PIN numbers. Write down the bank name and the number.
Now do a little creative manipulation of your data. Start with the
logins and passwords. They're designed to be powerful reminders
without giving the information away. Turn each login name into part of
an address, like this: The login name "delseym" could become "Delsey
St, near Main" and the password "del146" could become "Deltona 146xx
(forgot rest of zip)." Just like that.
The full address entry would look like this:
Delsey St., near Main
Deltona 146xx (forgot rest of zip)
Notice that the name is always fake. Make it sound real, but don't use
a real name.
Here's how I'd "encode" the login-password entry jparker 23coolguy:
Cool Guy Air-Conditioning Repair
23j Parker Apts
PIN numbers are more fun, especially if you like playing with math.
Take the four numbers and subtract them from 9999. Suppose your PIN
number is 6903. Subtracting it from 9999 produces 3096. Write that
number down as part of a phone number in your address list. When you
need to remember the real PIN number, simply subtract the number you
saved from 9999.
(If you're as mathematically challenged as I sometimes am -- usually,
in the morning, before I've had my coffee -- let me explain that the
arithmetic operation is simply a difference value. Find the difference
between, say, 1234 and 9999, and store that number (8765). Later, to
find the real PIN number, you look for the difference between that
number and 9999, and it has to be the PIN number.)
Put a copy of this highly valuable address list in your wallet.
Crumple it many times to make it look old. Put another copy in a
drawer somewhere in case you lose your wallet.