You might doubt it, but the rumors are true. Odds are, your debit card PIN is easier to crack than you think! New research from Cambridge University suggests crooks have a 1-in-11 chance at guessing your PIN if your card is stolen. That’s why, here at DebitSavvy, we want to help you determine if your PIN is secure or if it’s time to change things up.
According to the research, most PINs are 1111, 1234 or the person’s birthday.1 It turns out that people are not only pretty bad at choosing secure PINs, they’re also likely to share that information with other people. About 50 percent of the people surveyed admitted to sharing their PIN with at least one other person.
More than 1.7 million PINs were analyzed in the study. Researchers suggested that blacklisting the top 100 PINs would reduce the chance of guessing a PIN from nearly 10 percent to just 0.2 percent. Curious what these top PINs are? We were too:
0000, 0101-0103, 0110, 0111, 0123, 0202, 0303, 0404, 0505, 0606, 0707, 0808, 0909, 1010, 1101-1103, 1110-1112, 1123, 1201-1203, 1210-1212, 1234, 1956-2015, 2222, 2229, 2580, 3333, 4444, 5252, 5683, 6666, 7465, 7667.1
See your PIN listed above? Are you guilty of sharing your PIN with others? We understand. It seems unlikely that your debit card would ever be stolen, and no one wants to experience that awkward moment of forgetting a PIN at the register. Plus, there are things you can do to protect yourself in the event that your debit card is stolen. But we’re going to challenge you to avoid that headache altogether: decide on a more secure PIN and allow us to help you figure out a technique to remember the new number.
Step one – pick a number that is not easily tied to you but is easy for you to remember. Were you using your own birthday? Use your pet’s birthday instead. Did you use the last four digits of your phone number? Use the last four digits of a friend’s phone number instead. Once you’ve decided on a new PIN, we have a few ideas to help you remember it.
Try spelling out a word using the number-letter combinations shown on telephone dial pads. Let’s say your new PIN is 5263. With this number, you could spell out the word “LAND” to help you remember the numbers. Finding words might sound tricky at first, but you probably have more options than you think.
If you must write down the PIN to remember it, try encrypting it first. Sticking with the example of 5263, try adding in a meaningless number between each real number of your PIN when you write it down: 5020603. Make it more complex by choosing different numbers as the “filler” numbers: 5627683. You’ll be the only one who knows that only every other number is a piece of your PIN.
If you’re more of a math whiz, maybe it’s easier for you to remember a simple formula like +2. So, instead of writing down 5263, you’d write down 7485. Only you would know that the numbers written down are +2 from the actual PIN.
Interested in reading the full research paper? You can access it here.
Now, we want to hear from you. Do you have tricks that help you remember your PIN and keep it secure? Were you compelled to change your PIN after reading this post or the research? We want to know!
 Bonneau J, Preibusch S, Anderson R. 2012. A birthday present every eleven wallets? The security of customer-chosen banking PINs. Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge :1-15.