Protect Your Accounts: Choosing a good password


Compared to finding a prime parking space at the mall during the holidays, signing up for online services is a breeze. About the toughest thing you have to do is type in your e-mail address correctly. When it comes to choosing your password and User ID, the process is so easy that you may be tempted to speed right through it without giving much thought to your choices. Slow down there, partner! Take a deep breath and think about these two identifiers before you click that final Complete Your Registration button.

A quick word about passwords

Picking a good password is not as thought-free (but is twice as important) as it may seem. Whoever has your password can (in effect) “be you” anywhere online — on eBay for example: running auctions, bidding, and leaving dangerous feedback for others. Basically, such an impostor can ruin your online reputation — and possibly cause you serious financial grief.

Some commonsense rules can help you protect your accounts:

  • Select a password that’s difficult to guess. Use letter-and-number combinations or nonsensical words that nobody else knows. Don’t use common names or words relating to you (such as the name of your street).
  • Keep passwords secret. If someone asks for your password online, you can bet it’s a scam. Never give out your password.
  • Use two-step authentication when available. Gmail offers an option to authenticate any device that attempts to sign on to your account. Once you set this up (in settings), Google will send your smart phone a code to type in to your browser each time you sign in from a new device or an updated browser along with your password..
  • Don’t open an e-mail with an attachment from an unknown person. The attachment (another file attached to your e-mail message) could contain a virus.
  • Change your password every few months just to be on the safe side.

A not-so-quick word about choosing an eBay User ID

eBay gives you the option of picking your User ID. (If you don’t choose one, then your e-mail address becomes your default User ID.) Making up a User ID can be a lot of fun. If you’ve never liked your real name (or never had a nickname), here’s the chance to correct that situation. Consider choosing an ID that tells a little about yourself. Of course, if your interests change, you may regret too narrow a User ID.

You can call yourself just about anything; you can be silly or creative or boring. But remember, this ID is how other eBay users will know you. So here are some common-sense rules:
  • Don’t use a name that would embarrass your mother.
  • Don’t use a name that’s too weird, such as scam-man. If people don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you.
  • Don’t use a name with a negative connotation.
  • eBay doesn’t allow spaces in User IDs, so make sure that the ID makes sense when putting two or more words together.


If you’re dying to have several short words as your User ID, you can use underscores or hyphens to separate them, as in queen-of-shopping. If you permanently sign in to eBay on your computer, typing those underscores won’t slow you down.



You can change your User ID (once every 30 days) if you want to, but doing so might not be a good idea. People come to know you by your User ID. If you change your ID, your past does play tagalong and attaches itself to the new ID. But if you change your User ID too many times, people may think you’re trying to hide something or you’re in the Witness Protection Program.

eBay also has some User ID rules to live by:

  • No offensive names (like &*#@guy).
  • No names with eBay in them. (It makes you look like you work for eBay, and eBay takes a dim view of that.)
  • No names with & (even if you do have both looks&brains).
  • No names with @ (like @Aboy).
  • No symbols such as the greater than or less than symbols (> <) or consecutive underscores ___.
  • No IDs that begin with an e, followed by numbers, an underscore, a dash, a period, or a dot.
  • No names of one letter (like Q).


When you pick your User ID, make sure that it isn’t a good clue for your password. If you use Natasha as your User ID, don’t pick Boris as your password. Even Bullwinkle could figure that one out.


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