Fake Passwords

By | June 25, 2009

I have a webmaster secret that I will reveal here for the first time. As far as I know, I am the only webmaster to have ever done this. Here it is:

Almost everybody has used a site where you get a username and password, but you probably don’t know what a pain in the neck it is to run a site like that. Aside from the programming involved in setting up the system that gives out usernames and passwords, the main problem is that users constantly forget their login info. And, if you setup a system where they can email themself the lost password, many times it gets deleted as spam by their spam filter. Another problem is hackers, who can easily get into the site and then they post in various forums how they got in or they post a username and password for other people to use.

So, after a few years of doing things the normal way, I decided to change all of my membership sites so they used a fake login system. I had my programmer make it so that no matter what username and password the customer entered, it would let them in. And, to keep things simple, when they signed up I gave all the customers the same exact username and password. That way if anybody ever emailed me saying they lost their login info, I would instantly know what it was without having to look it up.

An example of a site I used this fake system on was FindCash.com, where people can look up if they are owed unclaimed money by the government. If they are, I charged them $10 for a username and password to find out how much they are owed and how to collect it. The free searches still work on the site, but I no longer sell memberships, so I am not worried any longer about giving away my secret.

When I switched from using real logins to fake ones, I was worried customers would catch on and that a lot of people would just get in for free instead of paying. Or, maybe somebody would post on a forum that everybody could get into my site for free, and it would get overloaded. But, none of that ever happened. After I made the change, I did not notice any decrease in sales, and the customer login problems stopped.

Another trick I used was that I told customers their membership was only good for 30 days, but that was not really true. Since all the logins were fake, I could not track their membership time, so they really had unlimited access to the site. Although I only charged a one time fee for the site, I did not want to advertise unlimited access because I was worried some customers would do a huge number of searches and overload my database. Luckily that never happened.

These solutions worked great for me, but mainly they are a good example of how thinking outside the box is worthwhile. The Internet is still in its infancy and many times there is no “right way” to do things. Sometimes you can blaze your own trail in this electronic frontier.

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