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Take Off Your Hat
The Computer Corner

May 26, 2024

by Charles Miller

Online authentication is what everyone who uses email, social media, online banking, shopping online, etc. has to do in order to log onto almost any online account. The most common methods of online authentication are something you know, and something you have. Something you know is your username/password as discussed here last week. Increasingly, online authentication is employing something you have, and the something most people have is a smart phone.

Again this week John Doe is back to illustrate how this works. (John Doe is more than one person and all of his experiences are factual even though paraphrased for improved readability.) When John tried to log in online to his bank he was presented with a message explaining that in order to access his accounts online he would now need to download and install the bank's app on his phone. Willing to do that, John went to the App Store on his older iPhone only to be told "This app requires iOS 16 or greater." John's phone was a hand-me-down from his wife when she bought a new model iPhone. John's older model phone worked fine for him, but unfortunately it was not new enough to suit the bank.

John then thought he could just install the required bank app on his wife's phone and use that app on her phone any time he needed to log into his bank account. He downloaded and installed the app on the wife's iPhone and at first it appeared everything was going to work as hoped.

After entering his username and password the app ordered: "Take off your hat so we can see your whole face." What?!? Oh yes, the smart phone has a forward-pointing camera and the bank's app has permission to activate it at any time. John obediently took off his hat, but then the app displayed a message reading "We checked with AT&T and found this phone number is registered to Jane Doe, not you. Please install the app on the mobile phone registered to John Doe and not on a borrowed phone."

It was not an option to just swap the SIM cards between John's phone and Jane's phone because the two phones were not compatible, so it seemed John was going to be forced to buy a newer phone in order to access his bank account. John decided to do that but then yet another problem reared its head because John used a Mexican cell phone number. The first time he tried to use his bank's app on his new phone he received a message saying: "We can't verify your cell phone account. We share customer information with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Before you can access your bank account you will need to sign up for phone service with one of those companies."

Then, just about the time John was ready to decide he would never be able to access his bank account online again and would have to start keeping his money under a mattress, he discovered his bank was able to offer him one more option that could grant him access to his account online. His bank was among those that offer the option to use one of the newest methods of online authentication, and one ideally suited for expatriates or international travelers. To learn what John found you should plan to come back to read this column next week.


Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with decades of IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico. The opinions expressed are his own. He may be contacted at 415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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