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Education Center » Nearing Retirement » Tips to protect yourself online

Tips to protect yourself online


There’s a good chance you know someone whose personal information has been compromised online at some point. With cyber crime on the rise and in the headlines, it may come as a relief to know there are some simple steps that you can take to help protect yourself and your information throughout your online interactions.

First of all, be assured that Merrill Lynch strives to use the most up-to-date security features and protocols to safeguard participants’ information. However, it’s always wise to take additional precautions to keep your private information—financial records, credit card numbers and other details—from being obtained fraudulently. Below are four tips to help you keep your personal information more secure.

1) Create strong passwords

Always include letters, numbers and symbols. Longer passwords (at least 8–10 characters) are more secure. Don’t use the same password for multiple sites, especially financial websites.

2) Guard your phone

Add a security code/PIN to your smartphone. For iPhone® users, you can find a Passcode option under “Settings.” On Android™ phones, go to “Settings” and select “Security.”

3) Protect your personal email

Almost all webmail providers (e.g., Gmail™, iCloud, Yahoo!™) allow you to opt-in to a service, called “two-factor authentication,” that adds an additional layer of protection to your login process. It requires the use of two independent authentication factors, which could be:

  • Something only you know (e.g., password, PIN)
  • Something only you have (e.g., ATM card, smart card, mobile phone)
  • Something unique to your identity (e.g., biometric characteristic, such as a fingerprint)

4) Make sure you're browsing securely

Check that you’re using the most recent version of your internet browser (with Chrome™, Internet Explorer® and Firefox® among some of the more popular options). Each new version adds security features that you may not see but are often critical to protecting your personal data. In most cases, browsers will update themselves automatically whenever a new version is released. Users of the more common browsers can check for updates via these links:


Google Chrome™ users
check for updates here


Microsoft® Internet Explorer®
users check for updates here


Mozilla® Firefox® users
check for updates here

The safety of your personal information is of the utmost importance. Merrill Lynch takes great care to protect participants’ personal information. These additional steps should help to make your online activities more secure as well.

Learn more and take action

  • If your 401(k) and/or Equity plan is with Merrill Lynch, changing your password is quick and easy. Visit Benefits OnLine and and select "Account Preferences", and then "Update Login Profile."
  • As an extra precaution, it’s also a good idea to take advantage of the annual free credit report, mandated by the federal government and available from Doing so can help you spot any unusual credit activity in your name.
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