Arm Yourself With Knowledge

The internet has made it easy for investors to check brokerage account information and initiate investment transactions on the go.

As an online investor, you should take certain steps to prevent unauthorized people from gaining access to your account. Many brokerage firms hold you responsible for the confidentiality and security of your account number, and PIN/password. Read your account agreement carefully-it may also tell you what to do in the event your account access information has been stolen or compromised.

  • Terminate each online session when you are finished-usually by clicking the "Log out" link on the site.

  • Do not store your username and password on a computer. Think twice about using features where a browser offers to remember your username and password to secure websites. This feature may allow others to access your computer and log in to your brokerage or other online account. And NEVER allow the browser to remember user names and passwords when using a public, shared computer.

  • Do not store passwords in a file on your PC or laptop-they are at risk if your computer is serviced or stolen.

  • Avoid using any computer that is not your own to access your brokerage or other online account.

  • If you must use a public computer, beware of over-the-shoulder snoops.

  • In addition, if using a public or borrowed computer, you can diminish the risk somewhat if you clear all Temporary Internet Files and History from the browser after you are finished (if you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer, this is done by clicking the Tools menu, selecting Internet Options, then selecting Delete Files from the Temporary Internet Files area and Clear History from the History area). Note: You may not always have the ability to delete this information from someone else's computer, and you can't be certain if it contains spyware or viruses.

  • Never share your password information with others.

  • Create passwords that are unpredictable and counterintuitive, and don't use the same password for different accounts.

  • Change passwords regularly.

  • If you suspect that your password has been stolen or used by others, notify the firm where you have the account immediately.

  • Use caution when surfing wireless hotspots. Wireless hotspots are becoming common in airports, coffee shops and hotels. They offer a convenient (and often free) means to access the Internet. But hotspots and home-based Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) networks can also pose risks.