Problem: So many passwords, you cannot recall the code you need
Time Involved: One hour to install program and input info
Having a hard-to-guess password and changing it frequently is your first line of defense for keeping your records safe, says Paul Stephens, a policy analyst at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit devoted to combating identity theft. But sometimes that can keep your records so safe that you forget how to access your own info.
The middle ground: a software storage program, such as Password Agent ($24.95) or Passwords Plus ($29.99), that lets you store dozens of PINs, passwords and account numbers directly on your hard drive. The information is encrypted (read: safe); you come up with one master password to access the rest (just don't forget that one).
The search feature makes looking up infrequently used log-ons a cinch. Better yet, you won't have to worry about creating passwords you can't remember (the best ones are randomly chosen strings of letters and numbers - forget the dog's name or the street you live on). Then print out all your passwords from the program and store them in your safe-deposit box, just in case your hard drive has a meltdown.
Too lazy to go out and buy an encrypted program? Well, don't just keep an unprotected list of PINs and passwords in a Word document on your computer desktop - a hacker or even an old-fashioned burglar can get into it, warns Stephens. Instead, write the information down in a notebook, then store that in a locked drawer.