Passwords + Pictures = Security?

It's getting harder for crooks -- and for you -- to access your financial accounts.

Memorizing a password just does not cut it anymore. Before you access a Bank of America account online, you'll be asked to verify an identifying image (say, a chess piece or some other object) and a phrase that pop up when you log in. E*Trade Financial offers a gadget that works like a digital decoder ring to unlock your account information. Wachovia might ask you for the name of your high school mascot before letting you pull up your bank statement. And some financial firms are experimenting with anti-fraud devices that will take your fingerprint or scan your iris to protect your identity and your money.

Blame financial regulators for the added inconvenience. It's part of an effort to combat identity fraud, which cost the economy a total of $49 billion last year, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.

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Senior Reporter, Kiplinger's Personal Finance