PIN Security

Personal identification numbers (PINs) are security features often referred to as PIN numbers (yes, it's redundant). PINs are important in keeping your money and your information safe. Picking a good PIN number and remembering it is easy if you use a few tricks. If you don't use a system for your PIN numbers, you'll end up writing them down somewhere — which is unsafe.

Things to think about when choosing and keeping your PINs safe:

Do Not Write Down Your PINs— PINs, like passwords, often get written on the very things they are supposed to protect. Some people write their PINs on their debit or credit card. Of course, this gives the holder of that card a free pass to your account. If the card is lost or stolen, a dishonest person will appreciate that they have the PIN number conveniently written right on the card. Don't do it.

 

Try to Have Multiple PINs — Security experts suggest using different PINs and passwords for different accounts. That way, if one PIN number is discovered, only one account can be raided. However, this can get overwhelming if you have numerous accounts. If you face a choice between writing down your PINs and using the same number for multiple accounts, it's probably best to just use the same number several times.

Remembering Your PINs— There are a variety of tricks you can use to remember your PINs. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few methods you can use, along with their pros and cons:

  • The Word Method 
    One way to create and remember a PIN number is to create it from a word. Think of the numbers and letters on your telephone. Then think about how you sometimes "dial-by-name" in a company's phone system. If you use a word for your PIN, it will be easier to remember. For example, the word "word" would be converted to a PIN using the numbers 9673 (the W is on the 9, the O is on the 6, etc). A disadvantage of word PINs is that automated hacking programs can use words from the dictionary in a brute force attack. However, most banking systems will lock you out after three unsuccessful attempts.
  • The Date Method
    Another way to create and remember a PIN is to create it from a significant date. For example, if your birthday is November 15, 1946, you can create a PIN derived from your birthday. You might use 1115 (for the eleventh month and the 15th day). You might also try 1546. The disadvantage of this method is that somebody who knows you may be able to guess your PIN with their knowledge of your personal life. For best results, mix up the numbers — use part of a date with part of your address or SSN, etc.
  • The Cell Phone Friend Method
    Some folks add a fictitious contact to their cellular phone, and the PIN is hidden within this contact's phone number. Of course, you risk losing your phone, having a dead battery or being without your phone when you need to retrieve the number.
  • The Addition Method
    Another way to randomize your PIN is to add numbers to an easily remembered number. For example, you might add 1 to each number of a base number.  For example, if you start with a base number of "1234", you add 1 to each position and end up with "2345". Of course, this is pretty simple and you'll have to get more creative for any meaningful security.
  • The Longer Number Method
    You should use the longest PIN possible. Due to the miracles of math, there are more possible combinations of numbers in a longer series versus a shorter series. If you're allowed to use more than four digits, do so.

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