A customer struggles as she uses an ATM at Bank of America bank in Palo Alto, Calif., Wednesday, March 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Ever forgotten a password online? The questions that websites ask to establish your identity have gotten so specific and so difficult that I often have trouble convincing Bank of America that I’m really me.

Sometimes I feel like I’m in “Blade Runner” and Harrison Ford will show up at any minute to interrogate me. “I swear I’m not an android, Mr. Ford. I just want to check my account balance. Please stop testing my pupil dilation.”

Bank of America’s actual security questions make me wonder how much I really know about myself.“What is the first name of your first manager?” Oh wow. How do you define “manager” really? Are we talking the lady who ran the book fair I volunteered at in second grade? What was her first name?

Bank of America isn’t even the worst offender. Heaven help you if you forget your Apple ID. Trying to retrieve a password from Apple is like taking a Rorschach test inside a hall of mirrors.

“Who is your favorite childhood superhero?” I have absolutely no idea. Is this the type of information most people remember about themselves? I’m not even certain I ever really had a preference. If I was a 7-year-old being accosted on the street, I would gladly accept assistance from either Batman or Spiderman. I wasn’t one to take sides.

Bank of America isn’t even the worst offender. Heaven help you if you forget your Apple ID. Trying to retrieve a password from Apple is like taking a Rorschach test inside a hall of mirrors.

“What was the first thing you learned how to cook?” I’m going to assume for most people this was water. Does boiling water count as cooking? Are we considering assembling raw ingredients without heat “cooking”? If so, I’d like to change my answer to “baby food.” Is there someone out there whose first menu item was “soufflé”? Should I have been aiming higher? We’re only supposed to be establishing my identity, but somehow Apple manages to make me feel completely inadequate.

“What is the name of the first beach that you visited?” Again, this is an actual question that Apple uses to establish your identity. You might as well ask me for the genus of the first amphibian I ever saw. Who keeps a list of these obscure firsts? If I had only known that my failure to keep a diary as a toddler would prevent me from electronically purchasing music in the future, life would have been so different.

“What is your dream job?” All of a sudden you started caring about adult me, huh Apple? Do you want to know the specific position and company? Or are you just looking for a broad title like “astronaut” or “sandwich artist?”

And if asking me about my hopes and dreams and deepest memories isn’t enough, now you want me to retype the letters or numbers in this image? Those can’t possibly be numbers or letters. Who drew this? This looks like a dyslexic robot’s signature.

Let’s just stop this charade right now. Before you even try to ask me anything else, I’ve got a question for you: What’s your customer service number?

Tags: Humor

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  • jefe68

    Oh the humanity…

  • heyma

    I tried to email this to a friend, and the r-captcha keeps catching me! I can’t do it!

  • Mollie West

    Great post, and so true! The ticketmaster website’s captcha questions are an absolute nightmare.

  • KC

    Thanks for writing this. The same thing happened to me with BoA customer service asking me really obscure security questions. It felt weirdly scary not being able to answer and get the bank information I needed.

  • idler

    well there’s no requirement that you have to answer these questions truthfully when you set up an account. Just think of a scheme where you can anwer all questions with something easy to remember – maybe derived from the question itself or …. use your imagination ..
    and maybe you should be glad that your banks are trying hard to prevent criminals from getting into your … accounts.

  • Graham

    The majority of the time you have a choice of what security questions to use… Why pick something you’ll never remember? This article just feels like it should be renamed, “look at the mess I got myself into.”

  • Renee Raymond

    Try having a medical condition that affects your memory…..

  • Murph

    Sure, scream all you want about security. But, we’re talking about your money here, not just access to The Boston Globe. Real Money. If you didn’t have strict security, think of all the screaming you’d do if someone hacked your account and stole all your money. Look, passwords are a PITA, I agree. I finally got a password manager to keep track of them all.

  • Thinkfreeer

    A bit of a stretch, I think. I have never seen a security system where the system is asking you questions you didn’t already provide the answer for some time before. How would they know who your first pet was? They don’t unless you tell them. And still, it’s really not they, it’s the computer. Computers don’t care how frustrated you are.

    It is humorous, though.

    I ended my lifetime (well 40 years) relationship with Verizon (previously other names) after spending hours trying to get my on-line access to my account restored or bills mailed to my house instead. This remained unresolved for over seven months. It’s not like I didn’t try. My conclusion was that Verizon doesn’t really have customer service – it’s just named that. After insisting that I would make no payments without a detailed bill, and them failing to provide same, I will forever use another carrier.

    Vote with your feet. It’s the only thing they understand. Too bad for them they can’t be a monopoly anymore.

  • dis-satisfyed

    yes, customer service number, oh wait! they had me on hold for 20 min, and then….they couldn’t hear me!!

    • dis-satisfyed

      this was after i couldn’t remember my password and they wouldn’t give it to me online because security questions were not established…I don’t even remember being asked…

  • ali

    human resources