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Preventing Theft from Online Accounts

Being able to access bank and brokerage accounts online can be very convenient, however, there's always that fear that a hacker may somehow find a way to log in and steal your money. This almost happened to the executive producer of the Clark Howard Show. As Clark Howard described, his executive producer just happened to be checking her account when she saw that all of the stock in her ETrade account was about to be sold. She immediately called ETrade, and learned that someone had hacked into her account and was preparing to wire the money out. Fortunately, ETrade was able to get all of the money safely back in the account.

Clark pointed out an important issue that brokerages aren't required to guarantee customers against this kind of theft. This is not the same for banks. As this MSNBC article describes, the Federal Reserve Board's Regulation E provides banking consumers with well-defined rights with respect to fradulent electronic transfers. However, there is a time limit in which the customer has to notify the bank of the fraud. So for both brokerages and banks, be sure to check your accounts often.