How to Select A Pin


Avoid Identity Theft Grief by Carefully Selecting Your PINs


I recently read an excellent article by Sid Kirchheimer, Avoid PIN Chagrin, in the November 2012 issue of the AARP Bulletin. It was pertinent enough to share with my clients and I've recapped it here:


When choosing a PIN for your debit card, ATM card, or credit card, these are the most common errors that are made. Thieves can easily guess your numbers if you make one of these mistakes:


1) Choosing your birth date. You probably have your birth date exposed in more areas than you realize: your driver's license, Facebook, applications, and more!


2) An easy string of numbers, like 1234, 0000, 5555, 6789, and numbers which spell easy words, like 5683 (spells "love")


3) The year of your birth (see #1 above!)


4) Your phone number


5) The address of your home


The owner of the website did a mathematical analysis on 3.4 million PIN numbers. He came up with these 20 most used PIN numbers:


  • 1234
  • 1111
  • 0000
  • 1212
  • 7777
  • 1004
  • 2000
  • 4444
  • 2222
  • 6969
  • 9999
  • 3333
  • 5555
  • 6666
  • 1122
  • 1313
  • 8888
  • 4321
  • 2001
  • 1010


Kirchheimer has a list of the top 10 most common (and easily stolen) PINS that differs slightly by including these:


  • 2580 (numbers in a row down the middle of the phone keypad)
  • 5683 (spells love)
  • 0852 (numbers in a row up the middle of a phone keypad)
  • 1998 (must have been a good year for many people)

Additionally, the site indicated that numbers that start with 19XX are popular PIN numbers and they appear in the top 20% of all pin numbers.


If you have any one of these 24 numbers above, or use a number 19XX, consider changing your PIN immediately.


Guidelines For Choosing a PIN

Kirchheimer advises using these guidelines to choose an easy to remember, yet hard to guess PIN:


1) Use the digits from a childhood phone number that is no longer in use

2) Use a date that is special to you, such as 0601 for the date (June 1) that you first visited DisneyLand.

3) Use an easily remembered non-dictionary word or acronym to choose your numbers. Such as EDBL for Every Day Brings Love which would be 3325.

4) If possible, use more than four digits. According to Kirchheimer, more digits are harder to steal. implies that the PIN number should not be easy to type on your keypad.


Other Tips Regarding Your PIN


Never carry your PIN or a reminder in your wallet. Remember that if your wallet is stolen you don't want to conveniently give the thief your card and your PIN.


When using an ATM or punching your number in a store cash register unit, cover your hand.


My Two Cents on PIN Numbers


Keep your card covered when you have it out in public - thieves can use high powered cameras to snap a photo of the card (and therefore your account number)


Keep your card shielded, especially when someone is uncomfortably close to you - thieves now have card readers that can read your card wirelessly if they can get close enough to it. (In general, 4 - 6 inches) The readers can even scan the card through clothing and wallets.


Change your PIN every few months and especially after you have been heavily using the card in public or online.


Check your credit card and bank statements the moment they arrive (or check your online account frequently). Question any charge that you don't recognize, ESPECIALLY if it is a small charge, like $.25 or $1.00. Thieves often run a "test charge" on an account to see if the charge goes through unnoticed and then they come back and hit the card with multiple fraudulent charges.


If you have cards that you rarely use, keep them locked up at home. If they are stolen from your wallet, it may be weeks before you realize that they are missing and the delay in reporting the lost or stolen card may cost you many dollars and untold grief.


Yes, your card probably has a fraudulent charge limit, but it can be difficult to prove that the charges are indeed fraudulent, especially if the thief was using your physical card and PIN number before you reported it stolen. It is also time-consuming to replace the card and to update all of your card information for any automatic payments.



Article by Patricia Tokar, CPA





Sid Kirchheimer has written a book, Scam-Proof Your Life: 377 Smart Ways to Protect You & Your Family from Ripoffs, Bogus Deals & Other Consumer Headaches (AARP)


Here is a link to Kerchheimer's original article: Avoid PIN Chagrin


Keep these tips in mind to keep yourself and your family protected from PIN identity theft!


Other Articles:
Forbes: Hacker's Demo Shows How Easily Credit Cards Can Be Read Through Clothes and Wallets
ITRC: Working to Resolve Identity Theft PIN Analysis




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Legal and IRS required notice:

This article is not intended to be specific advice. It is intended as a general guideline only. A determined identity theft thief can steal your PIN number regardless of how carefully you choose your PIN number






Certified Public Accountant



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