The ugly truth about passwords

You know how when you went to log onto your e-mail account, it turned out they changed the password? Or now that you’re trying to add another device to your Wi-Fi, you just keep getting an authentication error? Or how the product key for your new software isn’t working?


What’s behind all this? The answer is you. Well sometimes, the answer is me, because it happens to me as well. Companies don’t go in and change your account and password information for fun without notifying you. No one has the time and often, no one even has the ability. Your Wi-Fi network didn’t choose another password.


You’ve either forgotten your password or you are typing it wrong. I know you think you’re doing it right, you wouldn’t waste time otherwise. It may not even be a wrong password, it might be a capital letter or a space that you aren’t seeing. Sometimes your browser is remembering an old password and auto-completing it for you. Maybe you mistook a zero for the letter “o.”

Yes, sometimes folks get hacked. But 99.99% of the time, we’re looking at simple human error. I couldn’t send e-mail from an account on a tablet for months and absolutely couldn’t figure out why until one day I noticed there were actually two dots in the address instead of one. I’d typed instead  It was teeny-tiny letters on a tablet and I just didn’t see it.

And everyone forgets their password or forgets about changing their password. I had trouble logging onto an account once and I would have bet you one million dollars I knew what the password was, but then I checked my credential manager in Windows and discovered it was something completely different. Mind. Blown. Though, it was a password I’ve used before for other things.

A friend who does customer service for a software company told me this trick for activation codes. He had people who say their product keys don’t work take a photo of the product key and send it in. Then he types it out in an e-mail and asks them to copy and paste the code from the e-mail into the box. So far, he’s had 100% success rate.

So, if it happens to everyone, what can you do? First of all, if there’s an option to set up a phone number or alternate e-mail address to have your password sent to, do it. Make sure you keep that information up-do-date. I was trying to help my father-in-law get into an account after he forgot the password, but the alternate e-mail and phone number he provided were both no longer in use. So, it wasn’t much help.

You can also check your Window Credentials Manager

If you have the option of seeing what you are typing, turn it on. If you’re using a browser, clear the auto-complete. If you’re entering a wireless network, tell it to forget the network and start again.

If you click on an “I forgot my password” link on an account, you’re usually resetting your password. You could be resetting it every single time you click. So if you do it multiple times, you’re resetting the password the account just e-mailed you. Also, if they don’t have your current e-mail, you won’t get the reset notice.

It’s usually a great idea to take a breath and walk away. When we get frustrated, we tend to make mistakes or not see what’s right in front of us.

Try having someone else who isn’t already frustrated type in the password or product key. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can make the difference.  Remember, be very careful with spaces, capital letters, letters versus numerals and extra spaces. One space at the front can throw everything off.

And don’t count on your memory. Memory is bold-faced liar sometimes. Store your passwords somewhere. Not only for your use, but in case you were ever incapacitated and someone needed to access your accounts.

Sometimes accounts are hacked and passwords changed, but most of the time, that’s not the issue.

Most password problems are caused by you…or, in the case of my accounts, by me. Many of these issues can be prevented beforehand and some can be solved by just taking some time to catch your breath.


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