Google Analytics

Friday, 22 November 2019

How not to forget PINs

A tip from my accountancy years in the early 1970s.

Price tickets in shops sometimes used to bear codes showing cost prices. Next to the price, say £9.99, you would see something like I.WR, which secretly told senior salespeople that the price the shop had paid for the item was £6.50. It allowed them, if appropriate, to decide what discounts they could give. It could also be used to value the items in stock.

It was based on words or phrases made up of ten different letters, for example:

COLDWINTER

The ten-letter word stands for the numbers 1234567890, so, using COLDWINTER, I.WR represents £6.50. 

There were various tweaks to make things more difficult to decipher. An additional letter such as X could be used for repeated numbers such as .00 or .99 so that £10.00 could be coded as CR.RX. Or an interchangeable substitute such as Q could be used for zero, £10.00 becoming CQ.RX. Foreign code word were more secure still, especially in less common languages such as Welsh or Gaellic, because even if someone had collected all the letters they would be hard pressed to put them together and guess the code word.

Some more possibilities:

TAMBOURINE
VOLKSWAGEN
READMYBLOG
UMSCHALTEN
CYFIAWNDER

I use it to keep a note of secret numbers such as credit card PINs. It is not difficult to have two or three credit cards, a couple of debit cards, log-in PINs for phones and computers, not to mentions longer sequences such as customer numbers for online banking, building societies and National Savings. We are told not to use the same PIN more than once and not to write them down. How are we supposed to remember them all?

I do in fact know the PIN for my main card but keep a code book for other numbers. I have sometimes even written PINs on cards in code. I could go so far as to tell you that the PIN for my HSBC card is TPEF. No one can decipher it without the ten-letter code word.

You learn to translate between the letters and numbers quite quickly. It’s good brain exercise and insures against embarrassing senior moments at the shop till. It will keep me going until we are all forced to change to fingerprints or other biometric IDs.

Mind you, you’re stuffed if you forget the secret word. 

29 comments:

  1. Like you, I know my main bank card's PIN by heart, but need to look up all the other numbers that make up my personal profile as a customer, tax payer and so on.
    I didn't know about the letter code for prices. Here in Germany, the rule was/is to print the "recommended sales price" (UVP, as in "unverbindliche Preisempfehlung") on price tags. The shop can then decide how far up or down they want to go with their own sales price, and the customer can decide whether that price seems fair or not.

    Remembering passwords can be as much of a challenge as PINs. In my line of work (data/privacy protection), we regularly train employees on password safety. One tip we always give them is to create a password from a sentence that means something to them, such as the chorus line or title from a favourite song. If you take, for instance, the song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", your password would be WHAtFG? - not easy to guess for anyone else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The ten-letter word method only works for numbers. For alphanumeric passwords I have a different system.

      Delete
  2. I must write that down. For some reason I still remember my father's RAF number from WW2. 938947. I wonder why I am so lousy at maths.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some numbers do seem to stick in your head. I can still remember a friend's premium bond numbers. He bought 50 around 1970 and made the mistake of showing me the certificate, so I memorised the numbers in order to tease him that I'd know if he won.

      Delete
  3. Ages ago I started a list of all my various accounts and passwords/PINs etc but I wrote them down in a form of shorthand. Unfortunately, I cannot always remember now what the shorthand version means so am often locked out of accounts after entering the wrong password. I shall have to start again from scratch using your method!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ISLEOFMANX would be a good one for you. Write the pins in code on your cards and I'll be round in a week or two to steal them.

      Delete
  4. I can remember my Mum's Co-op Divi number from the 1960s (4524)but would be sure to forget a code word!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't instantly make up a code word for you - Suffolk has two "f"s and only 8 letters.

      Delete
  5. I have no trouble remembering PIN numbers. I have a photographic memory, I am not sure if this makes a difference or not, but I see the pin numbers as shapes of how the numbers are on the key pad as well as being able to remember them anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe I have too many cards and accounts.

      Delete
    2. I've just read your post right through and find the method wholly more confusing than just remembering numbers.

      Delete
    3. I've got five or six cards and a similar number of bank/buiding society accounts plus other things, all with different PINs and logins, most accessed maybe only once a year. Despite a reasonable memory for numbers I'd be locked out if they weren't recorded somehow.

      Delete
  6. It was sort of exciting to read your pin even though it is in code! I don't remember pins for things I either rarely use or access, to be honest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even more exciting, my American Express card PIN has five numbers: EBWFT.

      Delete
  7. You lost me at "tip". I must be a bit thick. My pin code is 1953 - the year that I was born. Sing it from the rafters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For which card would that be? Please could you also sing the name on the card, its long number and the expiry date.

      Delete
    2. Mmm...I think I smell a rat. No can do Pedro.

      Delete
  8. My childhood phone number is the key to my codes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Does that mean the same code for differen cards?

      Delete
  9. I use Anglo-Saxon pins with a number, my childhood phone number would have been 365, and I definitely miss that old phone..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a long time since we had 3-digit phone numbers but I remember quite a few. There must be some great 10-different-lettered Anglo-Saxon words.

      Delete
  10. And to think that in the sixties I knew all my friends' phone numbers by heart. I'm hard put to it now to remember our house phone and usually have to ask my husband to remind me of his if I don't have my mobile to hand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was when everyone started using mobiles that I stopped bothering to remember them.

      Delete
  11. Will apply this to my bank pins in future, Thanks. #KCACOLS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Enda. I bet you can come up with a really obscure Irish code word.

      Delete
  12. I think I'm stuffed! It's easier to remember the numbers! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps I should begin to rationalise my accounts and cards.

      Delete

I welcome comments and usually respond the same day (unless it looks like you are trying to advertise something).