Your personal information is a valuable part of your financial life. Merrill Lynch recommends that you monitor your information in the same way you monitor your money. It is important to protect yourself, because by the time you find out that you have been a victim of identity theft, it is usually too late. The following are steps you can take today to protect yourself — in person, on the phone and online.
Create passwords and PINs not easily associated with you
- We recommend not using your children's names, your pet's name, the last four digits of your Social Security number or any other item of information that may be unique to you.
- Memorize your passwords and PINs; do not write them down.
- Do not share your passwords and PINs with anyone, even if someone asks. Note: Legitimate representatives from your financial institutions will not ask you for this information.
- Change your passwords and PINs regularly, and especially if you suspect that someone may have knowledge of them.
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Use caution with email and websites
It is a misperception that email is a secure form of communication. In fact, "hackers" can trawl through email and instant messages looking for pieces of personal information written in the note.
Most financial institutions have a secure "send us an email" feature on their Web sites (once you are logged on). Send personal information through known and trusted sites only. And if you manage your financial accounts online, you may want to check them regularly for any unusual activity.
Also, technology changes quickly. Keep your personal computer's virus and firewall software current. Your employer is responsible for safeguarding your work computer, but you are responsible for your home computer.
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Discuss the risks of identity theft and fraud with your family
- Young children may pick up the phone and give personal information to strangers.
- Teenagers may be lured by phishing e-mails and Web sites; they may send personal information through non-secure e-mails and instant messaging notes.
- Elderly relatives may be susceptible to people who prey on elderly people, on the phone or in person at their front door.
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Safeguard your at-home information
- Use a cross-cut shredder to shred all personal documents you are throwing away, such as your bank account statements, credit card statements and quarterly reports on brokerage accounts.
- Shred (or, at the very least, tear up) any unwanted credit card offers. If you are inundated with credit card offers, you can remove your name from the Direct Marketing Association's unsolicited mail list: www.dmaconsumers.org/consumerassistance.html
- If you receive telemarketing calls, register with the National Do Not Call Registry: www.donotcall.gov
- Keep a list of your credit card numbers, their 1-800 phone numbers and your driver's license number in a safe-deposit box in the event your wallet is ever stolen.
- As an extra precaution, do not write your Social Security number or driver's license number on your checks.
Rapport provides an extra layer of protection by working alongside clients' anti-virus software and firewall to help:
- Prevent malware and fraudulent websites from stealing Online IDs, Passwords and other sensitive information
- Secure browsers to keep malware from tampering with online transactions
Features and Benefits of Rapport:
- Guards sensitive information when signed in to the MyMerrillTM and Merrill Edge websites, while your anti-virus software scans your computer files
- Blocks malicious software that anti-virus software can’t detect or remove, keeping it from attacking, tampering and stealing sensitive information
- Protects a computer's connection with our firm’s websites so criminals can't interfere or "listen in"
- Warns users if they accidently visit a fake website that looks like MyMerrillTM or Merrill Edge
- Is free and requires no registration, restart or further commitment
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Check your account statements and credit report
Your personal information is a valuable part of your assets. It is recommended that you make a habit of checking for any unusual activity on a regular basis.
- Check your banking and credit card statements when you receive them; don't just file them away.
- Account for every transaction, even the very small ones like getting gas or picking up groceries (thieves don't always make big purchases)
- If you receive hard-copy statements in the mail, be aware of any missed statements; someone may have tampered with your mail.
- As a suggestion, sign up for electronic statements—not only are they efficient and save paper, but there is a very low chance of someone stealing them via e-mail.
- Check your investment account statements closely.
- Look for any unusual activity or any unauthorized access into your accounts.
- Check for credit cards or loans that you didn't apply for, but are opened in your name and are listed under a different mailing address; this can be a sign of identity theft.
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Be aware of how fraud occurs
Your awareness is a major step in protecting your personal information.
- E-mails and phone calls asking for personal information.
- Imposters who pose as representatives of a legitimate company you do business with, calling or e-mailing you, claiming that your personal information has been lost or misplaced.
- Be aware of a Web site or e-mail that is different than the one with which you are accustomed.
- Be aware of a Web site or e-mail that seems similar (in look/design) to the one you usually use.
And lastly, you should know that in and of itself, a link in an e-mail is not necessarily bad. It is only bad if the link is from a fraudulent company. But if you take steps to be cautious and be aware of false Web sites and e-mails, you can use your judgment.
Possible Signs of Identity Theft and Faud.
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If you need to report identity theft or fraud, or if you have questions, please call us at
1-800-MERRILL (637-7455), or contact your Financial Advisor.