"Yes, several times, but it's still being rejected. I think I'm hacked."
"A rejected password does not necessarily mean you've been hacked, sir. But let me see what I can do..."
I looked up the man's user-id, checked when he had been online for the last time and verified it with him.
As the dates checked out, I had reason to believe that he wasn't hacked. But the client was a persistent one: he was sure that something bad had happened to him. Perhaps a virus?
I know of viruses that steal passwords, but never heard of one that disables them.
Just to be sure, I asked the customer his password to check whether it worked on a test machine each employee had at the service desk.
I wrote it down as he spelled it to me, and I started checking. I Checked it on the server. The server said the password was okay.
"Sir," I said "Your password is just fine. It works over here."
"Can't be! Maybe I have been blocked by you people!"
So I checked if there were any due bills.
"No sir, our financial department has no quarrels with you. Your password should work fine."
"It doesn't work here, though. You explain to me how that is possible."
"Well, perhaps you have a firewall, although in general, firewalls do not cause passwords to be rejected."
"I can assure you I have no firewall."
"Would you please do me the favour of typing it once more, sir?" I asked.
I heard his keyboard rattle as he typed the characters, while simultaneously reading all characters out loud. I should have been paying attention then, but I was counting on the man not being all that stupid. That will teach me to make assumptions on people...
Again, the password got rejected. Several colleagues were frantically trying to think along with me.
I was puzzled by then.
I tried the password on another colleague's machine. It worked as I expected.
I could even check the man's mail he still had on the server.
I heard him typing frantically the password over and over.
With each rejection his anger rose and his impatience grew.
I calmed him down and asked him for what was probably the seventh time to type the password EXACTLY as it was on the letter we sent him.
So he started typing and at the same time, saying what he was typing:
"e, capital W, capital D, capital 3, b,..."
"Hold on, sir, what did you just say? Capital three?!?!?"
"Yes, it's written rather big in the letter, so I guessed I'd make it a capital"
"By pressing 'SHIFT'?"
"Sir?" I asked him in a confidential tone "What do you think 'SHIFT' + 3 really does?"
Then he suddenly understood what he had been doing wrong all the time.
He typed his password once more and connected immediately.