Digital Dilemma

Montrose Daily Press [April 15, 2018] Kathryn R. Burke

Can’t remember your password? Can’t remember your login? Can’t Remember S#$%! CRS is a serious problem for seniors as short-term memory takes increasingly frequent vacations making it hard to manage in our password-protected digital age.

For the kids and grandkids, this isn’t a problem. They start with computers in grade school and have ‘smart’ phones and credit cards by the time they’re twelve. For us older folks, who grew up leery of credit and committed to buying only what we could pay for, with cash or a paper check, today’s digital world is a scary place.

Want your bank balance? Look it up online. Pay bills? Pay online. Write a check? Nope, most places won’t accept them now; use the handy checking account debit card—that requires you to enter your ‘pin’ number. Shop? Hello Amazon. Even big-box stores suggest you order from their website.

All of which means logins, passwords, pins, and those easily forgotten ‘secret’ questions like, ‘Who was your favorite first grade teacher?’ Excuse me? That could be 50 years ago! Then, when you try to login too many times, you are ‘locked out.’ And, told to assign a new password, something you haven’t used before. If you can’t remember this one, how can you remember previous passwords?

So, you write it all down, keep the list somewhere handy where you can refer to it without digging. Where? Near the computer, near the phone (if you still use one), in your wallet? Pretty handy, all right, for anyone who has access to those places. If you feel safer ordering by phone—say flowers for a friend’s funeral—you give your credit card, with expiration date and that ‘secret’ CVC code, to the order taker, who must write it down. Then it’s lying around where anybody can see it.

While you are trying to figure out how to logon to your bank or credit card account, that ‘anybody’ (which often includes a trusted friend or relative) can zip in and clean out your bank accounts and max your credit cards.

How do you protect yourself?

• Don’t leave the list lying around. Get a lock box (office supply or Walmart), lock the list inside, put the key on your key ring.

• Keep a list copy in your safe deposit box and give one to person designated as Power of Attorney.

• Subscribe to an online password protection program. (There are several; call me and I’ll give recommendations and warnings of those to avoid.) Then you only need to remember ONE password to look up the rest.

• Do NOT use anything that identifies you for a password: your address; name of spouse, pet, close relative; birth or anniversary date of anyone even remotely close to you; easily identifiable words or words with double letters (like grandkids, happy, vacation, garden).

• DO use something with at least one number, one capital letter and one symbol (if allowed) like ! or @. Suggestion: if you are sitting at your computer, look around for something familiar, then incorporate that into a password. Notebook, pencil, lamp, desk might be NplD!123. If you are asked to change the password, pldN@123. And so on.

• NEVER give personal financial information or passwords to someone who calls asking for it, even if they say it’s a dire emergency. Hang up and call them back on their official number listed in the phone book.

The digital dilemma isn’t going to get any easier, and as we age, our memories aren’t likely to get any sharper. Take steps now to insure your money is safe from financial predators.

Kathryn Burke is a the author of the Caregivers’s Journey series. Learn more, order books, or contact her here, Meet her at the Region 10’s Caregivers Summit, June 7, Montrose Pavilion.