Ameritrade and Spam

I don’t think I ever wrote about this, but I meant to. I used to have an Ameritrade account. When I signed up I created a new email alias specifically for Ameritrade (“billing_ameritrade@kingant.net”), and I didn’t use it for anything else. Maybe a year later I started noticing that I was receiving spam on that email address. So I created a new, insanely random email alias and changed my Ameritrade account to use that. Less than a month later I noticed spam being sent to the new address. So I filled out a feedback form on their web site and said something along the lines of:

I’ve been getting spam sent to the email address I use for my Ameritrade account. There are a few possible causes for this:

  1. You guys sold my email address to spammers
  2. Someone at your company sold my email address to spammers without authorization
  3. Someone hacked into your network and stole my email address

This doesn’t make me very happy. I’m wondering what you intend to do about this?

They replied:

I do apologize, but this has been a problem and we are working with investigators to get this resolved. You are not the only one affected and I promise that non of those explanations you gave are true. We would never do anything to hurt our clients, especially when it comes to your security. I do apologize for the inconvenience.

I found that totally unacceptable. A large institution in control of a chunk of my money has no idea how my email address could have been stolen? There’s no excuse for that. So I canceled my account and switched to using optionsXpress. That was in January. Today I stumbled upon two news articles about hackers stealing account info from Ameritrade. Article 1 and article 2. Ameritrade disclosed the breach in mid September. The second article suggests that it had been happening since January 2006. WTF? It took them 20 months to discover and disclose the fact that information about 6.3 million user accounts had been stolen? Holy shit, how do you screw something up that badly?

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