How AOL helps protect your account
We strongly encourage our content, commerce and advertising partners to post clearly their own privacy policies and to have privacy control systems in place to protect your personal information. Be sure to review their privacy policies and contact them directly if you have any questions.
Protecting your AOL Account FAQs
We at Team AOL believe everyone should have a secure AOL Account. We do our best to keep your account running smoothly and securely, but we need some help on your end. Below are some guidelines you can follow in order to have an optimal computer and internet experience.
Select a topic and FAQ below to learn more about keeping your AOL safe and secure.
What can I do to secure my computer and AOL account?
Update and Secure your computer
Use the steps below to secure your computer for a safe and optimal internet experience.
- Regularly scan your computer for spyware and viruses using anti-virus software. If you don’t have a one, we recommend McAfee Internet Security Suite – Special edition from AOL.
- Update your Windows or Mac OS operating system to repair necessary programs, hardware and devices. Enabling automatic updates on your computer will do this work for you.
- Update your software, such as AOL Desktop Software, McAfee, Adobe products and Java.
- Update your plugins. Out of date plugins increase your risk of compromise by malware through malicious websites. To check if your plugins are out of date, visit http://plugincheck.security.aol.com and review the plugin versions that are listed for your computer and select any that need to be updated.
- Enable your firewall.
Update your browser
- Update your browser to the newest version by using the AOL Software. Or update Internet Explorer by clicking Tools and then Windows Update, and in Firefox by clicking Help and then Check for Updates. Google Chrome updates automatically.
- Be cautious when downloading certain plug-ins or third-party applications, as they may access your AOL Account without your knowledge and compromise your computer’s security.
Change your password
- If your account has recently been compromised or you suspect it has been hacked, we suggest you change your password.
- It’s a good idea to periodically change your password as a preventative measure to avoid hackers. Your Username and password are the same for all AOL properties (except Patch, Shortcuts and about.me), so choose your password carefully. Visit account.aol.com to change your password and account information.
- If you consistently use the same computer, mobile phone, iPad, etc., to sign in to your AOL account, our system will eventually recognize it as a trusted device and will ask you to enable Automatic Password Recovery. Once you enable this Automatic Password Recovery, if at some point you need to retrieve your forgotten password without answering your Account Security Question then you can do so through this feature.
Secure your AOL Account
- To ensure your account’s security and privacy, always sign out of AOL WebMail, AIM, My Account and websites in the AOL family, especially if you are using a public or shared computer.
- When you sign in to any AOL service, make sure the url begins with “https.” The “s” denotes a secure website that you can trust to enter your Username and password. Your AOL WebMail, My Account, Games.com, etc., will contain a url that begins with “https.”
- If you feel there has been some strange activity on your AOL account, you can check to see if someone else has been tampering with your account. Go to My Account, sign in with your Username and password, answer the Account Security Question and click Continue. Click View My Account Activity under Account Options, select a month from the drop-down menu and click Go. You will be able to view the last three months worth of account activity.
Follow these tips
- Create secure passwords and Account Security Questions.
- Never share your password over email, AIM or third-party sites. AOL will NEVER email, instant message or call you asking for your password.
- Sign out of your AOL account when using a public computer or sharing a computer.
- Clear cookies, cache, history and footprints in your browser.
- Learn more security tips by checking out our online help article Password help and Account Management: Managing your Account Security Question (ASQ).
What can I do to protect my online privacy?
Your online privacy is a matter of great concern to you and our team at AOL. As you read emails, check your stock portfolio or post status updates on Facebook, you leave behind invisible tracks on the internet. This information can be misused by hackers or identity thieves. The simplest way to keep your personal information private is to be smart about it.
Here are some tips to protect your online privacy. Some are easy, some are common sense, and some involve a bit of work.
Always read online privacy policies
- Almost every Web site silently records what you are doing. Websites gather information, such as the kind of hardware or software you use or even the address that your ISP has assigned you, without your knowledge. However, these websites have privacy policies that will tell you what kind of information is being extracted from your computer and with whom this information being shared.
Opt out of mailing lists
- Websites offer you several privacy options, including the option to opt out of mailing lists that share your information. You should opt out of being part of the list in order to keep your information secure. Some websites make it easy by asking your permission before adding you to the mailing list, while other websites do the exact opposite and make it hard for you to opt out.
Get a separate email account for personal use
- Keep your work and personal email accounts separate. Why? Because your boss has the legal right to read your work email correspondence, which may include any personal information you have stored on your computer.
Teach your children not to give out personal information online without your permission
- Federal law prohibits companies from collecting personal information from children under 13 years of age; however, there are certain websites that violate or skirt the law. Educate your children on how important it is to ask your permission before they give out their name, address or other information about themselves or their family. Make sure teenagers using Facebook and MySpace have privacy settings that allow only their real friends to see their profile, photos, videos, etc.
Be cautious when using social networking and picture/video sharing sites
- If you use a picture or video sharing site to share photos with friends and relatives, pay attention to the privacy settings on the site to ensure that you are not sharing photos with strangers, especially photos of your children.
Learn to use the privacy features in your web browser
- Internet browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Safari, Camino, Firefox or Chrome, have a variety of tools and plugins available to help protect your privacy and the security of the information you use on the internet. Take the time to learn about these features so you can better control the planting of "cookies" on your computer and identify insecure or fraudulent sites before you visit them. If you use a computer in a library or other public place, make certain you clear your browsing history and memory cache before you leave. Depending on your browser, you can delete cached images from the Preferences menu or the Tools menu.
Make sure that online transactions are secure
- Most e-commerce sites have a secure way to receive your credit card information. In most cases, the address for a secure website will start with "https." The "s" indicates that the site is secure. In addition, most browsers display a small picture of a lock on the browser frame at the bottom to indicate that the site is secure; however, just having both these features doesn't make a site legitimate. The company running it could be fraudulent or the website could be fake. Ensure that you enter your banking or transaction details only on a secure site.
Learn how to spot phishing and other scams
- Before giving out personal information online, know who you're dealing with. You have to be especially careful because fraudsters, trying to get information out of you, create websites that resemble the sites of legitimate businesses. "Phishing" is a scam designed to steal your personal information under false pretenses, usually by tricking you into disclosing personal information such as your credit card and Social Security numbers and account passwords.
Some clues of fraud:
- If an email address that claims to be from a bank or business headquartered in the United States ends with .cn or any other country code, it is not legitimate.
- Messages marked "Urgent" are usually fraudulent.
- Many fake sites will place a picture of a fake lock icon on their site. Ensure that the secure lock icon is in the browser frame and not inside the browser window.
Reject or delete unnecessary cookies
- Cookies are small bits of computer code planted in your computer by most websites that you visit. They allow websites to collect and store information about your online activity and recognize your computer when you return or visit an affiliated site. For example, if you sign on to a website and obtain a user name and password, the cookies remember that information for you. Consult your browser's Help section to find out how to delete unnecessary or unwanted cookies.
Safeguard important files and communications
- You should always keep your information secure and private.
It is important to:
- Secure your laptop, phone and other portable devices with a strong password that cannot be guessed easily.
- Never use family names or birth dates as passwords.
- Keep your important files out of any shared or public folders.
- In situations where there is a particular need for security, use encryption.
How do I protect my AOL account from hackers?
We want to keep your privacy and security on lockdown. The only person who should have access to your account, Username, or email is you. Below are a few helpful tips that will keep your account secure. Also, please check out the AOL Mail Security site for more information on how best to protect your account.
Use different passwords
- Using a single password for AOL and other sites (Facebook, Twitter, or banking websites) may place your AOL account, username or email at risk. We suggest using unique passwords for each site you visit.
- Make sure that your password is difficult for others to guess, but easy for you to remember. Check out our Password protection tips article for techniques on generating passwords.
Keep it to yourself
- Never disclose your password or Account Security Question (ASQ) to anyone.
- Don’t send your password or ASQ in an email, Instant Message or chat room.
- Never give your password or ASQ if you are prompted to in a link sent to you in an email, chat room or pop-up window.
- Don’t be fooled when a suspicious email, link, chat room or pop-up window claiming to be AOL asks for your password or ASQ. Our team at AOL will NEVER ask you for your password, ASQ or other personal information. Whenever AOL needs to contact you for official purposes, you will receive AOL Certified Mail.
- Always sign out if you are not using your AOL account. If you use your AOL account on a public computer, make sure to sign out of your AOL account when you are finished, and Clear cookies, cache, history and footprints in your browser. Use the Remember Me or Store Password feature only on your personal computer.
Don't download or open suspicious mail
- Don't click a link or open an email attachment in a suspicious looking email, even if it comes from a relative or friend (most likely their email has been hacked!). And definitely don't open attachments or click links from senders you don't know.
- Always keep your operating system and anti-virus software up to date, as these steps will help protect your computer from the latest threats.
Know what your installing
- Don’t install unfamiliar programs as these programs may contain viruses or spyware.
What do I do if I suspect unauthorized access to my AOL account?
If you believe your AOL or AIM Username has been used without your permission, there are several steps you can take to prevent unauthorized access and fix the situation.
IMPORTANT: AOL now offers a new feature called Automatic Password Recovery. Once you enable this feature, you will be able to reset or recover your password without having to verify your identity by answering account security questions. To learn more about this feature, see Account Management: Managing your AOL Password
Review Your Billing Details
- If you think someone else has used your account, immediately verify if any of your billing plans have been changed without your consent. Also, run a virus scan to rid the computer of any viruses that may have downloaded.
- Sign into your account with your master Username, and answer your Account Security Question. Check your account activity for any unusual charges.
- Note: Even if someone gains unauthorized access to your account, you can be assured that your payment information is secure. The only way someone can gain access to your payment information is when you send it in an email or an instant message.
Run a Virus Scan
- Use well-known virus protection software to check your computer for viruses that may have downloaded during or after unauthorized usage. If you need help scanning your computer, go here: Install McAfee Internet Security Suite - Special edition from AOL.
Check if emails were sent without your consent
- If you suspect unauthorized usage, immediately check your Sent folder for any emails that were sent without your consent.
Check if your profile was altered and change your password
- We recommend that you immediately change your password and check if your profile has been changed.
How can I avoid computer viruses
Viruses are destructive programs that delete or corrupt files, interfere with your computer operations and reproduce themselves to fill disk or RAM space on your computer. It's best to read the information available to you on your antivirus software’s website, but here are some of our recommendations to avoid viruses:
- Don’t download files from unknown sources, either from your email or the web.
- Scan all new files with virus-scanning software before opening.
- Don’t download attachments (pictures, games, electronic greetings) unless it’s from someone you know.
If you think you have a virus, we recommend that you immediately use antivirus software to run a scan. If you don't have one, you can download the McAfee’s latest antivirus software or you can visit our Internet Security Central page for more information.
How can I increase my children’s internet safety?
Resources for children's safety online
The following are some websites that can give you more information on how to keep your children safe and secure while online.
- National Cyber Security Alliance
- US Federal Trade Commission -- Consumer Information
- The NetSmartz Workshop
- The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children -- Cyber Tipline
- Net Family News
- The CyberSmart School Program
- Safe Kids Home Page
- SafeTeens.com Internet safety for teens
- US Federal Trade Commission -- Children’s Privacy
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse -- Online Privacy: Using the Internet Safely