Today I found that someone had accessed my brokerage account, added an external account, and transferred out thousands of dollars. This is wire fraud.

While I'm not concerned about the return of the money, which is all but guaranteed, I am concerned about catching the culprit -- this is not their first attack on me. They attached their bank account info to my account, so they should now be identifiable.

I reported it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which is what fbi.gov directs you to for internet-related crimes, but from what I've read nobody ever hears back from them and they just ignore 99%+ of reports.

How can I actually press charges and see that the person committing wire fraud against me is caught?

  • 3
    Talk to your brokerage. They'd know what to do. (And then tell us!)
    – RonJohn
    Jan 22 '20 at 20:31
  • The silver lining is that the broker has things in place to make wrong go right; at least that is if they want to earn people's business. You have to trust that the broker is doing everything in their greater power to catch this and thousands of other culprits. The broker has preemptive and postemptive procedures in place to restore your funds. You should count your blessings that the broker isn't accusing you of some sort of fraud or simply ignoring you because you agreed to keep your credentials secret but obviously you failed to comply since someone got access.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jan 22 '20 at 20:36
  • If you have any leads as far as who you think would have specifically targeted you then certainly report it to your broker but odds are that you are a random victim of social engineering mixed with a leaked online database and less-than-stellar password.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jan 22 '20 at 20:39
  • Believe it or not, I regret to say Etrade said "sorry, if you want to do anything about it, you'll have to do it yourself....here's the bank account info that was used, though, good luck." They do in fact not seem to have any procedure for dealing with crimes other than reversing the transfer and resetting your login. Jan 22 '20 at 21:11
  • 2
    Since "this is not their first attack" you need to take a close look at your security practices. And also talk to your brokerage and tell them that you do not want any external accounts linked (for transfers in either direction) unless they verify with the other bank that the candidate bank account is held in your name (and your name alone). Typically several authentication methods are offered, including manual verification with the other bank and also automated via "trial deposits". They should be able to opt your account out of all automated linking methods.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jan 23 '20 at 15:32

It sounds like you've done most of the possible things already:

  • Report to the appropriate authorities. You've reported to the ICCC. You can also check the government's central fraud and scams reporting page for other authorities you may want to notify.
  • Report it to your financial institution. They will be instrumental in restoring your funds, and they will also be required to handle fraud reporting according to whatever regulatory body oversees them.
  • Report it to any other financial institution involved. You've indicated that they added an external account. Usually, that means they've set up an account with an ABA routing number and an account number, so they can send transactions to it via ACH. If you have that setup information, you can identify their bank via the routing number. You can then search that bank's website for fraud reporting resources, or just call their main 800 number and ask to report fraudulent activity.
  • If some other mechanism was used to transfer the funds (i.e. PayPal, Venmo, etc), alert that company, as well. Although, this doesn't sound applicable in your case.

Other than that, there's not much you can do except wait. Financial institutions have a vested interest in pursuing fraud, even if that's not readily apparent and it feels like reports go unanswered. Much online fraud is perpetrated with stolen identities, which makes it hard to capture the fraudster (the account they linked to yours is probably not an account they actually own, it's more likely an account they hijacked through social engineering or a scam). But on the other hand, lots of fraudsters are actually caught, although sometimes it takes significant time and effort to trace the crimes back to the individuals responsible, so things can seem "cold" for a while.


How can I actually press charges and see that the person committing wire fraud against me is caught?

I imagine you should report any criminal offence (stealing your money) to the police. To recover civil damages you normally contact a lawyer. Obviously this depends on your country/jurisdiction (and maybe that of the other parties involved)

They attached their bank account info to my account, so they should now be identifiable.

That is likely to be some "money mule" sucker duped into processing a payment for a distressed online friend / overseas veteran / Nigerian prince. Your money probably got sent elsewhere pretty quickly via effectively untraceable and irreversible Western-Union / bitcoin / suitcase-o-banknotes -- leaving the penniless half-idiot fall-guy to face your wrath.


That's just not surprising. Western democracies make a good effort to do what is Right, but the fact is there are so many flies and so few flyswatters.

Of course, you have a private right of action to some degree: you can sue John Doe and then use discovery to collect facts -- but you're liable to just run into more victims, and possibly ones worse off than you.

  • We get lots of questions here from people who are "hired" as "office managers" and are expected to receive money for a "company" and forward most of it on as iTunes gift cards, Western Union transfers and things like that.
  • Or people who are "overpaid" for goods they are selling, and asked to forward the surplus amount on to their "shipper", again in Western Union, Visa cash cards, negotiable gift cards, etc.

Face it -- the real pain-point here is not knowing the outcome. You want to hear "we got em, and here's how". But that is not realistic. The banks are not bumbling. The criminals are reverse-engineering their abuse-detection methods. It is a technology arms race. Talking openly about their methods would result in the bad guys improving.

  • 1
    Still, causing the recipient bank to receive some unwanted attention from federal regulators might convince them that improving their automated fraud detection is a better option than being under investigation (or negative news coverage).
    – Ben Voigt
    Jan 23 '20 at 15:28
  • @BenVoigt Maybe. But just because it failed in your case doesn't necessarily mean their fraud detection thresholds are set wrong, or that there's anything to improve. 100% fraud detection pretty much means a lot of legit transactions also get flagged. Jan 23 '20 at 18:16
  • 1
    Not "my case", this hasn't happened to me. And I agree that fraud detection will never be perfect. But more can be done. Consider also that criminals tend to steer their cutouts into opening bank accounts at banks that are known to have weaker-than-average detection. So we're not talking about advancing the state-of-the-art, but about convincing those banks to catch up with industry standard measures. However, it sounds as if the brokerage is the one with the best chance of making a difference, which is as straightforward as comparing account owner name and SSN against the bank's records.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jan 23 '20 at 19:36

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