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We all have pet peeves. I have a few more than most people. But the runaway madness with the number of online functions requiring unique alphanumeric passwords peeves me at least once a week. Never write passwords down, they tell us. Create a very unique alphanumeric password. Never use familiar words or numbers, like family names and birthdays. How about XGFlurb1*54yyz4927? That’s an excellent password that no thief will ever guess. Now, create 43 more passwords like that, for all your loans, mortgage, banks, savings and retirement accounts, newspaper subscriptions, utilities, health insurance accounts, telecommunications companies and any social networking sites you belong to.

Oh…and don’t write them down!
I, like many parents, once upon a time signed up for a membership at Pampers.com, figuring that a few coupons in the mail now and then for what is one of the largest household expenses in the early childhood years — diapers, which might be made of titanium considering their cost — would be a good thing. And it has. Pampers’ parent company has shared my name with other partner companies, so a steady stream of coupons for all sorts of childhood-related expenses comes in via the mailbox.
I received one of many e-mails I get from Pampers.com recently.

Log in, it said, and enter to win $10,000 for your child’s education. I figure by the time my child attends college, that should just about cover the costs of condiments in the school’s meal plan, but who am I to expect my child to excel academically without ketchup and tartar sauce?

So, to enter their contest, I had to log in. No problem. E-mail address first (easy) and password. That was the hard part. I created this account a long time ago, and the password to my “Pampers’ Parents Club” membership just isn’t engraved upon my memory the way my password to the Web site for the company that holds my mortgage. I tried to bluff my way through with a few likely combinations. No go. In an effort to avoid time wasted fiddling with this fairly unimportant activity, I finally had to “request my password” via e-mail. But they didn’t send me my password. They sent a temporary password. After I used the temporary password, I was ushered to a secret page where I was obliged to change to a NEW password. (It wouldn’t have done if I had used my previous password: that’s bad for security.) I was also required to input the answer to several security questions…you know the type: mother’s maiden name, first school you attended, favorite musical group.

OK. Did I mention that this is a Web site I joined to get coupons for diapers? Not the site that maintains my 401k, my checking account or my car loan, or Amazon, which has every credit card number in my possession stored in its databanks.
Now, far be it from me to scoff at the risks of DIAPER COUPON IDENTITY THEFT by unscrupulous individuals who want to rob me of my right to get $1.50 off the next jumbo package of Pampers Cruisers I buy in the supermarket. It might take me years to undo the damage caused to my unscented baby butt wipe karma were I to show up at the store and have to pay full price for a package of Butt Swipers.

I’m not scoffing at online security. Doing I what I do, and reading what I do all day, I realize that the Internet is a dangerous frontier that made the Wild, Wild West look like a quilting party. It scares the willies out of my how many organizations have my personal information in their databanks that are undoubtedly bound by less-than-rigorous network security.
I do not, however, lay awake at night fretting than an imposter might log into my Pampers’ Parents Account and order their free potty-training guide using my identity. But hey…you never know, and unless you’ve got my mother’s maiden name, you are NOT getting that potty training guide, you would-be thieves.
So there.

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