I like to keep my savings in various stocks and ETFs. Those are all long term investments which I don’t intend to sell for more than a decade. However I’m constantly paranoid over various threats to my financial assets:

  1. Hackers accessing my credentials directly or by hacking by brokerage
  2. The brokerage having a glitch of some sort that makes my money disappear
  3. Someone gains physical access to one of my unlocked devices (say via a threat of violence) and directly transfers my money out

These are all low likelihood risks but at the same time I would like to secure myself against them if there’s an easy solution. Can I do something like ask the brokerage to never touch my account unless I show up in their office with two pieces of ID? Or maybe get a paper certificate of all my investments and keep it in a bank vault that likewise requires physical access?

Note: I’m aware of 2FA, using long random passwords, using disk encryption, regularly updating your OS, etc. But even the best security experts do small mistakes all the time so I can never be 100% sure.

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  • "Can I do something like ask the brokerage to never touch my account unless I show up in their office with two pieces of ID?" It's 2021; who goes to a broker anymore? – RonJohn Feb 8 at 0:50
  • @RonJohn if my entire life savings are on the line I wouldn’t mind going in person for extra security. Millions of lives have been ruined to a various degree by hackers and I don’t want to risk it. – JonathanReez Feb 8 at 4:37
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    How many other people's investment accounts get wiped out? I read all the time about Btc wallets being stolen, and checking accounts being drained via hacked debit cards (which is why I don't own Btc or pay via DC), but never about people's investment accounts being hijacked. That should tell you something: either it's really rare, or brokers successfully cover them up by reimbursing the clients. – RonJohn Feb 8 at 5:07
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    I think you're really wise to worry about such security, and, it's a great question @JonathanReez – Fattie Feb 8 at 15:07

If your plan is to hold securities for 10 years or longer, obtaining stock certificates and keeping them in your safe deposit box protects you. However, doing so will increase your transaction costs since brokers tend to charge a fee for issuing and/or depositing them to your account.

I doubt that asking your broker to require two pieces of identification is a solution. They probably already require that. And if not, a notation on your account could easily be overlooked. It might be worth asking them if it's possible to prevent online sign up.

Some brokers offer added layers of access security. One of mine had a user owned security device that required a second level of passwords to sign in online. In addition, no money could be transferred out unless it was to a bank account or broker with the same account titling.

There is risk in everything. Brokers can be hacked. Computers and people make errors. Someone with a gun to your head in your home is going to have his way with you. But realistically, how likely are any of these? And apart from the gun scenario, SIPC covers $500k (up to $250k of cash).

There will never be 100% security and if knowing that is too much for you to deal with, maybe you should marry into money ;->)

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    I'm afraid that - similar to SIM card transferring - if a clever scammer call a brokerage and gets a less clever employee, he will be able to get access, if he whines convincing enough. All your 2FA and long random passwords will not help against human failure. – Aganju Feb 8 at 0:38
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    @Aganju there is no perfect security. We can only do our best, and then watch. – RonJohn Feb 8 at 0:46
  • About the only foolproof security would be retinal scanning of the account holder, assuming that he's still alive and making an appearance at the brokerage firm ;->). @Aganju is correct, human error trumps intelligence. – Bob Baerker Feb 8 at 0:50

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