Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Create an account in 8 simple steps!

This weekend, I started working on our taxes. As we all know, the first step is to gather all of your documents in one big pile. Lori and I live fairly simple lives, so this wasn't too difficult, but I did notice that I was missing our mortgage interest statement. I found an old mortgage document from Washington Mutual with an account number and 800-number on it and gave it a try.

The automated system asked for my loan number and the last 4-digits of my social security number. I entered both and was good to go. I navigated through the phone tree until I found "Your mortgage interest for the previous year" and got the information I was looking for. There was one problem though - the information was followed by a discomforting caveat: "This amount may not be the amount that was reported to the IRS. For the official amount, please visit"

Now this was strange. What could possibly be the point of providing information that may or may not be reliable?

It's the IRS though, so I decided I should do my best to get the exact amount. I went to and realized I had never created an online account. So, I clicked Create Account and landed on this page.

Wamu I actually started laughing when I saw it. Check out the informative line on the far right: Step 1 of 8. Just eight simple steps to an online account? I think that doing my entire tax return online last year involved fewer steps. Guess how many steps it takes to build the Mini Cooper of your dreams and order it from a local dealer? Six! Do you honestly expect me to go through 8 steps just to create an account? How many steps would it be after that to actually get the information I was looking for?

After a few minutes, I started thinking that the incredible number of steps must be due to stringent security requirements. After all, this is a banking site, so you can't be too careful.

But then I remembered that all I had to do just 10 minutes earlier was dial an 800-number, enter an account number followed by 4 digits and I was in. Complete access to everything about my Washington Mutual financial life. If I'm an existing customer, they have all of my information (name, address, phone, etc...), they just need to verify who I am. Here's a 1-page, 4-question version:

Email address:
Existing WAMU account number:
Last 4-digits of your social security number:

Needless to say, I left the site without creating an account. My time is too important and my standards too high. I'd much rather risk the wrath of the IRS and write a post about it.