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The Goods

Getting Up to Code

December 03, 1996|LESLIE KNOWLTON

How do you select and protect your personal identification number? From the pros:

* Avoid using consecutive numbers or repeating the same number.

* Use something meaningful to you but not obvious to anyone else. Avoid birthdays, anniversaries and Social Security numbers.

* When crafting codes, try to use at least six characters; this makes it tougher for hackers to figure out.

* Do not tell anyone what your codes are. Many irate ex-spouses are now basking in the Caribbean, courtesy of "secret" access codes.

* Do not write codes down anywhere, even in a disguised form.

* If you write your codes on the back of an ATM or credit card, you may be liable for resulting theft.

* When entering your codes, protect yourself from being observed.

* If possible, don't do business with an institution that won't allow you to craft your own code.

* Be aware that in many cases, your code is encoded into a computer and cannot be retrieved by the company with whom you established it.

Sources: International Assn. of Credit Card Investigators; Electronic Fund Transfer Assn.; Bank of America; American Bankers Assn.; MasterCard International.

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