By Mary Trapani

Usernames. I can’t sign up for that new, cool service because I cannot come up with even one more username. Passwords. The bane of many an existence. Change it every 30 days and you can’t use the same one as you ever did in the last 40 years. It’s a hassle.

As I train and educate on ID theft and cyber security, I am often asked about how to manage usernames and passwords. I have a great answer.

Shortly after our own ID theft nightmare started in April of 2000 (more to come on that in future blog posts- it’s a doozey of a story!), I came up with a 2-part process I call the “Nom de Persona”. Nom de Persona is a username and password scheme based on a “Persona” rather than on yourself. Sounds crazy, but it works.

So let’s start with the first part – the Persona. You have to pick a Persona. The Persona is a person – real or fictional – who may be personally known to you or even a public figure. Could be a favorite character from a movie, book or TV series. Or it could be someone whose info you would find on Wikipedia like Tom Brady or Neil Diamond or George Washington or Henry the VIII. Select whomever you wish as long as you can find out lots of details about them. Then, you would use their birth date, their kids’ names, their pets’ names, their favorite color and so on – to design your usernames and passwords.

My Persona is someone with whom I went to grammar school. I have not seen her since 8th grade. But, coincidently, later in life she became friends with someone I know through business. I keep up-to-date on events in her life and things she likes through that mutual friend. She has no idea I base my usernames and passwords on her and I have been doing it for about 15 years.

Nom de Persona is easy and makes usernames and passwords easy to remember but it even fulfills the wish of so many frustrated people. It allows you to safely use Excel to track your usernames and passwords. Yup, I said it! People always want me to give them permission to keep their usernames and passwords in an Excel spreadsheet. Well, you have my permission if you correctly use the Nom de Persona username and password scheme. You can even keep a small piece of paper folded in your wallet if you prefer. I just made a bunch of Baby Boomer gentleman very happy.

All you do is make a formula for each username and password in your Excel spreadsheet. The formula is made up of pieces of info that will be hints for you because you will know how to translate those hints into the real info in your head. Don’t label the columns. Maybe the first column is the password column and the second is the usernames. Don’t list the websites – just a hint as to the website. Never record who your Persona is and don’t use a hint that might give it away – like use the word “career” rather than “football” and “spouse” rather than “wife”. If you do it right – the hints should be generic enough that you should be able to change your Persona and keep the same formulas.

See the examples below. If your Persona is Tom Brady, a good username formula is “Mom’sMaidenNameCareerFirstYear” with a password formula of “DOBPet’sName”. This would translate to JohnsonFootball2001 as the username and 08031977Fluffy as the password for your online banking account.

Banking Mom’sMaidenNameCareerFirstYear DOBPet’sName
Shopping 1 SpouseCareerPet’sName Mom’sMadienName#ofSiblings
Work 1 Given by work SpouseCareerPet’sName
Work 2 Given by work #ofSiblingsPet’sNameDOB

One last suggestion. If everyone who knows you knows how much you love a particular celebrity – maybe you don’t use that person but rather someone you dislike instead. So if the stadium security carry your picture at home games because of your professed love for Tom…go with Eli.

Soon you will make up your own hints and codes for special characters or when to capitalize and so on. You can also have some fun with projecting what the future might hold for your Persona. Like using “gofor4” as the info for the hint “what’snext”.

I hope this helps you. Usernames and passwords are very important and are the first line of defense with keeping your info safe. Changing them often is easier if you use the Nom de Persona username and password scheme. Happy hinting!

Want to know more? Join me for one or both of my upcoming, informative webinars:

Ransom, Cyber-Spying, and Subterfuge: Securing Your Data and Keeping the Bad Guys Out


Cloud Clash: On the Front Lines of Cybercrime and Identity Theft

Mary Trapani is a former VP of HR and Organizational Development with almost 25 years of experience working for fortune 500 companies mostly in industrial and manufacturing areas. These experiences provided her with the invaluable skills to be an outstanding trainer, executive coach, public speaker, and risk management consultant. Mary also had her own identity stolen 14 years ago and continues to struggle with that today. These experiences thrust her into an exploration of identity theft issues and identity protection. She has a passion for helping people learn about a wide array of topics, including identity theft. For more information on ID theft services, visit

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