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Password protection

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Like many people, Lisa Hale suffers from password overload.

"I need a password for my banking online," said Hale. "I need a password for work. I need a password for my BlackBerry, Yahoo blogs, my AOL e-mail account. I have a password for my Outlook account at work."

At Consumer Reports, 80 percent of the IT department's work involves resetting expired or forgotten passwords. Dean Gallea, who oversees the computer testing, said using a weak password leaves you vulnerable to identity theft.

"A weak password contains information about you that's easy to find out," said Gallea. "Your name, address, birthday, or some variation of those things."

Using one password for everything is a mistake. If ID thieves get the password to your Amazon account, you could have unintentionally given them access to your bank account. For stronger e-security, three passwords are ideal. Use one password for financial website, another for sites with your personal information, such as Facebook, and a third for sites that have no confidential information, like blogging sites.

"Make it easier by starting with something you can remember, like a childhood friend's name, maybe spelled backwards," said Gallea. "And then add some numbers or symbols to the beginning and end. That way, if you have to write it down, you can just write down the add-ons."

New technology can also help. There are devices that let you scan your finger in order to log on to websites. Certain computers now use facial recognition software to let you log on to your computer. If you must write down your passwords, never put the list in your computer, next to your computer or in your wallet. Instead, hide the list where thieves where thieves will not look, like the pages of a favorite book.

Click here for more advice on selecting a safer password.

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