TD Ameritrade

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Identity Theft

Identity theft-using a person's personal or financial data to commit fraud-is one of the most rapidly growing global crimes. The targets of this crime are your personal information, your financial information, and access to your online accounts.

The personal information often targeted includes:

  • Name, address, and date of birth  
  • Social Security number
  • Driver's license number
  • Passport
  • Signature

The financial information often sought is:

  • UserIDs and passwords
  • Account numbers and ABA numbers
  • Credit card numbers
  • ATM / Debit cards
  • Checks


Phishing is when someone attempts to steal personal or financial information. It usually starts with an email asking for sensitive information, such as your UserID or user name, your password, or your account information.

Phishing-sometimes also referred to as pharming-opens the door to identity theft and computer security breaches.

Please note: We will never ask you for your account number, UserID, PIN, password or any other personal information in an email. (In rare cases, however, we might need to ask you for the last four digits of your account number for identification purposes.)

How to spot phishing

Stock Spam

Online investors should be aware of stock spam, part of a common Internet fraud involving a "pump and dump" scheme. In other words, a company might be promoted and recommended as the latest hot stock in chat rooms, supposedly unbiased newsletters, or even in its own press releases. Unwitting investors purchase the stock, creating high demand and inflating its price. Then those who are behind the scheme sell their shares at the peak, stop the hype, and the stock price plummets-causing regular investors to lose money.

To protect yourself, always do your research before you invest:

  • Consider the source. Be skeptical. People touting a stock may well be individuals who stand to profit.
  • Verify information. Making grand claims is easy for a company to do. Before you invest, be sure to independently verify those claims. When you see an offer in an email or on the Internet, assume it’s a scam unless your own research proves it’s legitimate.
  • Know where the stock trades. Many of the smallest and most thinly traded stocks trade in the over-the-counter market (OTC Bulletin Board or Pink Sheets). This is because they don’t meet the listing requirements of NASDAQ or NYSE. They’re the most susceptible to manipulation, and therefore the most likely to be the focus of a spam scam.

If you receive a stock spam email you can file a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission at You probably only receive an auto-reply from them, but they do take complaints seriously and may be acting on yours behind the scenes.


As its name suggests, spyware is software that is used to "spy" on your computer. It poses two problems: invasion of privacy and can adversely affect your computer's performance.
How to spot spyware

Viruses, Worms, and Trojans

Viruses, worms, and Trojan horses (often referred to as just Trojans) are programs that can become embedded on your hard drive. They can allow remote access to your computer, send spam, be used to spy on you, log your keystrokes, aid phishers, erase data, and even wipe out your hard drive.

  • A virus is computer code that infects your computer when you take a certain action, such as double clicking on an email attachment. A virus typically embeds in your existing software and uses it to reproduce and spread.
  • Unlike viruses, worms are stand-alone programs. They do not embed themselves into another piece of software, but spread by duplicating themselves without any intervention from you.
  • A Trojan is a stand-alone program that spreads by masquerading as a harmless file or program and tricking the user into installing it on his or her machine. Many Trojans arrive under the guise of a picture, screensaver, or email attachment. Once a user opens the file, the Trojan installs itself on the computer and may take over the computer's email program or use its own email program for malicious purposes.

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