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Too many passwords? Just one does the trick

On a recent business trip, en route to Dallas from Atlanta, my iPhone went missing.

The woman at the airport lost-and-found reassuringly told me that my loss was a "hot item" and I shouldn't expect it to turn up. She was right. Unfortunately the case carrying my phone also included my charge, debit, and business cards. After the incident my colleague tells me she has photocopies of all of her cards and ID on her computer in case she loses anything. She then admits that she only has one password for most of her accounts, so if someone had that then they'd have most of her personal information.

She's been safe so far, but she might be a little overconfident.

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Joe Siegrist, of , a site that allows you to safely and easily manage all of your online passwords, says using the same password for every account is like using the same key for every lock you have. One of the best ways to protect our personal and financial information is to protect our passwords. It's becoming more important now as fraudsters have discovered new ways to steal money and information due to increased traffic on social networking sites, unsecured public Internet access spots, and online shopping, dating, and gaming sites, according to the .

"Most of us believe that nobody is interested in our information. We think [identity theft]can't happen to us – until it does and we realize our mistakes," Mr. Siegrist says.

This is usually when we begin to change our habits. Mr. Siegrist says we have to be most careful about keeping banking and our e-mail accounts safe. I don't think much about e-mail until he asks me just how often I click "forgot my password" and a new link is sent to my e-mail address to change my information. If someone has access to your e-mail they can more easily change your passwords to other accounts.

Using difficult-to-remember passwords is ideal but, of course, it makes them easier to forget. And we should be using a different password for every site we visit. One way to protect ourselves is to set up an account with a secure password manager, like . With these sites you simply have to remember one master password to gain accesss to all your other passwords. Plus, all of your data is encrypted so your information is safe. 1Password comes with an annual fee of approximately $50, but you can try it for free for 30 days. is free to use, or if you prefer to have a premium membership with access on your mobile phone, it's $12 for a year. You can read more about its safety and benefits .

If you don't sign up for a secure site to manage your passwords then consider the strategy you are currently using. Is it safe? A recent TD Canada Trust revealed 84 per cent of Canadians are concerned about fraud, with the majority of us being most worried about online fraud. It's not surprising, considering we are online everyday, reading e-mail, scanning Facebook, checking our investments, and shopping. We're constantly typing in user names and login info. Safely storing our intricate passwords in a secure and central spot helps to simplify our online life and keep our financial and private information better protected.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read on managing debt and saving money at the Globe's .

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About the Author
Angela Self

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies, a group of five women who specialize in personal finance. They are hosts of a self-titled show on the W Network and the authors of The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough. More

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