How do I keep track of all my online accounts?

I went to a wonderful lady’s place last week, she has three children all parents and all claiming to be computer savvy, ready to help their mum with her computer and device issues.

She had an iPhone, iPad, and a laptop, and she has accounts with ITunes ICloud, Telstra, Virgin, Norton, Skype, Facebook, Gumtree, Govia and Pinterest, not including another 30 other online accounts. The problem I discovered, was that she and her kids had, over the years, signed her up to 5 separate email addresses in order for her to sign up to these accounts as you can imagine she didn’t know which email address, was linked to which account. If she was logged out of an account accidentally, she didn’t know the password for it, so consequently she would have to reset her password. It was a bit of a mess, but after a few hours of troubleshooting, we removed three of her email addresses, and made sure her online accounts only used one email account, and they were all the same on her iPhone, her iPad and her laptop.

Does this problem sound familiar? It seems as if every website asks you to join them with a unique username and password in order for you to access the information you are looking for. This article is to help you navigate the minefield of online accounts, usernames and passwords; with a few tips and tricks to bring some sanity to managing your online accounts. My advice is

  1. Don’t use an email account your internet provider gives you, like Telstra, Optus, Vodafone or Virgin, because if you decide to change your provider then you lose your email address and have to let everyone know you are changing you email address. Get yourself, a Gmail or live.com, yahoo.com or outlook.com account. They are free and no matter how many service providers you change, you can always keep your same email account.
  2. Open two email accounts, one used for your family and friends, and one used for everything else. If you open an account online, use your secondary email address, so if you start getting spam it is confined to that email address, and you can easily close it without having to notify all your friends about it.
  3. When creating a password think of an 8-digit password that you can use across your online accounts. People tell you to make each password unique but when you have upwards of 30 online accounts this just becomes impractical. Make your password with a capital letter a symbol and a number in it for Example 18_Music. Make sure its personal and don’t use this example one. If for some reason one of your accounts is compromised using this password all you have to do is change your other online accounts to another password, much easier then trying to remember a different password each time you login!
  4. Many of my clients have an old address book they use to put all their usernames and passwords in, this makes it easier to manage, and even though many say not to write down your passwords, if you have a little ‘black book’ and you keep it in a safe place in your house not with you when you go out and it doesn’t have any banking details in it, then the likelihood of a burglar breaking into your house and stealing your password book and using it is highly unlikely.
  5. Rationalise your accounts every six months. Just go through each online account and see if you need it anymore, if not close it, or change any details that are no longer correct.
  6. Lastly, and probably most important; question what you are looking for, is it worth opening an account for? If they ask for a lot of personal details, it doesn’t mean you have to give this information to them, if you are not sure about a website then don’t give them your details.

If you’re in a little bind like my client, I am always happy to come over and sort out your accounts with you to help you get it back into some form of manageable system. I deal with around 4 clients a day and am forever inputting usernames and passwords, on their behalf. I usually write them down during the appointment if I have to keep using them, then my policy is to leave the piece of paper with them, so by the time I get out to the car I have forgotten any semblance of any password we were using. Be sure your technician does the same and does not take these details away with them.

If you have any questions please give me a call on 1300 682 817 or email me at Nathan@hometechassist.com.au. Happy computing!

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