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Report: Hackers emptying online accounts
Business Week: Cyber thieves can clean out your online brokerage account in minutes.
November 7, 2005: 9:25 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - More and more computer hackers are lifting passwords from home PCs and emptying online brokerage accounts, a business news magazine is reporting.

In the latest cyber scam, hackers exploit the weaknesses of investors' home computers to access e-mail accounts and liquidate online holdings, BusinessWeek reported, citing regulators and people whose accounts have been ripped off.

Home PC users are particularly vulnerable since high-speed and wireless connections have made it easier for hackers to get in, the magazine said, noting that 84 percent of computer users keep sensitive personal information, including financial data, on their home PC.

Securities & Exchange Commission investigators said they are investigating dozens of such schemes at the moment.

"It's a new and growing area that is more intricate and more complicated than other Internet-related securities frauds," John Reed Stark, the SEC's chief of Internet enforcement, told BusinessWeek. "And it is still evolving."

So far, $20 million has been stolen from online brokerage accounts in the last year, the magazine said.

But with $1.7 trillion worth of assets in online brokerages, Web investing is a lucrative pursuit for thieves.

Brokerages often help customers recover their money, or reimburse them for their loss, BusinessWeek said.

But many experts believe that brokerage and high-tech industries should further educate consumers and provide them with the information and software they need to make their accounts secure.

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