DEAR HARRY: Yesterday, a neighbor told me that someone hacked into someone's computer and got information on his credit card. Fortunately, the hacker tried to use the card for a large purchase that someone questioned because he never had such a large charge. He was advised by the vendor's personnel to make his passwords more complicated to foil the hackers. Are you aware of the best way to do this? I only use two passwords that are quite simple, for about 12 accounts.
WHAT HARRY SAYS: Two passwords are not enough. It's too easy for a hacker to get access to many accounts once a password is known.
I would suggest at most a password for every two accounts. The longer the password, the better. Use letters, numbers, symbols, upper- and lowercase, few words. If you do use words, misspell some. Avoid the common things like your birthday or your address. Don't use common quotes like a poem's first line.
Try to be sure no one is looking over your shoulder when you use ATMs.
You do not have to memorize the passwords. Keep password lists in a room different from where your computer is located. Many brokers (and others) recommend that you change your password every three to six months on each account. And always watch your accounts for something unusual.