Vanguard Brokerage Lost My $60K Roth Account!

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Vanguard Brokerage Lost My $60K Roth Account!

Postby Lbill » Mon Jan 04, 2010 12:12 pm

This is a warning to others.

I just got off a two-hour call with a Vanguard Brokerage representative. In the process of consolidating two Roth IRA accounts, one of my Roth accounts with $60,000 in assets disappeared. I entered the twilight zone when it appeared that ALL previous statements, confirmations, and other records of activity in this account was also missing. There was no record anywhere of this account or that it ever existed. The representative seemed to think I was hallucinating about a phantom IRA account. After considerable persistence on my account, it appears we may have located the phantom account but I'll have to wait several days to see if it re-materializes. I'll send the bill from my cardiologist to Vanguard - right after I move my brokerage accounts somewhere else. Please be warned - you MUST keep extensive copies and/or paper records of EVERYTHING. I use the web and receive all my statements electronically. I'll NEVER do that again without having copies and tangible records of everything. Now I know what can happen in the blink of an eye to electronic records. Hope this helps some other poor fool avoid what I just went though.
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Re: VANGUARD BROKERAGE LOST MY $60k ROTH ACCOUNT!

Postby bearwolf » Mon Jan 04, 2010 12:37 pm

Lbill wrote:I'll NEVER do that again without having copies and tangible records of everything. Now I know what can happen in the blink of an eye to electronic records. Hope this helps some other poor fool avoid what I just went though.

I keep an electronic copy of all bank, credit card, Brokerage account statements plus a printed copy of the year end statement. The copies are kept in PDF format, hopefully that format will endure. Of course electronic copies are subject to media failure, but I also have safe deposit backup disks that get rotated every month or two. So in theory I have at least 4 copies. The one on my hard disk. The one on my local backup disk and one copy on each of the USB disks that I rotate through the safe deposit box. Which reminds me, it's time to do my monthly rotation.

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Postby chaz » Mon Jan 04, 2010 12:39 pm

I'm very sorry for your problem. I always keep a hard copy of important documents for the very reason that you point out.

I hope that your missing account is located to avoid the coronary.
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Postby GammaPoint » Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:14 pm

Sorry to hear that. Hope it gets found :(
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Postby edge » Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:19 pm

I have had several problems with Vanguard's IT systems. I just posted something about it myself....interesting.

I wonder if VG is being hacked or if their systems are just very very buggy.
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Postby livesoft » Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:22 pm

Finders keepers!
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Postby Lbill » Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:33 pm

I wonder if VG is being hacked or if their systems are just very very buggy

I must admit the possibility of fraud entered my mind as well. Their system seems to link everything to the account number. I was assured that the electronic records are always there even if something were to happen to the account; ergo, if there were no records for the account I must be crazy. However it appears that in Vanguard's system electronic records are also linked to the account number. PDF statements, which appear to be seamless, are actually dynamically assembled as separate pieces from the links. If the account disappears, then all the electronic records trails for that account also disappear, even from the electronic statements. Convenient for fraud isn't it? I would be extremely careful about verifying and keeping copies of ALL statements/confirmations, etc. received from Vanguard - given this flaw in their system.
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Postby bob90245 » Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:55 pm

I check my accounts every Friday. And I make a hardcopy when there is activity. So if the kind of mishap as described by the opening poster occurs, I can fax my records to show as proof.
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Postby btenny » Mon Jan 04, 2010 2:27 pm

This loss of electronic data is one of the KEY flaws all over the world in moving to paperless systems. Banks and brokerages and dozens of other companies want to move to paperless systems. But these companies give us no way to prove we ever received the data or even had an account with the company. So everyone needs a second independent secure source to receive copies of their electronic records to PROVE they really had an account or received a statement and to prove the contents of the statement.

I am pretty sure this already happens somehow with bank to bank and law office to government transaction and so forth but I do not know the details.

So until this occurs at the consumer level I recommend everyone keep a paper copy of monthly statements of all major accounts. This snail mail record is your only proof that something existed and you really had the account. This will save you in the event of hacker trouble or identity theft or several other troubling events.

Consider what might happen to all your account data if Vanguard were hit with a 911 type hacker attack. Do you have PROOF that you ever had an account or the latest balance?

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Postby Kenster1 » Mon Jan 04, 2010 2:30 pm

Lbill -- holy jumpin' jacks! Man, I'd surely be stressed out about that too and the sleepless nights. But that is certainly scary.

Do you plan on moving all of your retirement accounts out of Vanguard? Have plans as to where to go?

Vanguard is great for low cost investments -- but they should not be cheap with their systems, software and overall IT infrastructure.

Makes you wonder about maybe having your accounts at 2 different locations.

I have my 401k at Fidelity -- and my previous employer also used Fidelity as well. My IRA's are at Vanguard. Excellent service so far at Fidelity after many years and many clients also report the same about their customer service and web experience. Perhaps when I am no longer with my employer in the future I may keep it at Fidelity with a seamless rollover IRA so that my assets will be split.
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Postby Lbill » Mon Jan 04, 2010 2:50 pm

A major wake-up call, that's for sure. I'm in the process of securing recorded documentation of all my accounts, at Vanguard, TIAA, and Treasury Direct, banks, etc. I take nothing for granted from this point forward.

Based on this experience, I'm considering cashing out my I-Bonds in Treasury Direct. There is no way to accumulate documentation of my holdings there except by printing out the Account Holdings page. Since that is not an official statement like those provided by financial institutions, I wonder how useful it would be? My understanding is that TD take the position that it will NOT replace lost holdings anyway. If they're gone - they're gone. Better hope that nothing happens to those electrons stored at TD. I'll hold onto the paper I-Bonds, because those can be replaced if they come up missing.
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Postby mikep » Mon Jan 04, 2010 2:58 pm

Thanks for the wakeup call. I am all electronic, the least I should do is login and download the pdf statements monthly for safekeeping. I hope your situation gets resolved.
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Postby neverknow » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:00 pm

..
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Postby mfen » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:05 pm

I continue to refuse to give up my paper statements. I know the story about it reduces costs, sorry, give me my paper statements. The quality of the ink and paper is durable compared to fading home copies or corrupted disc storage. I don't throw it out until I have sold the security, accounted for it with the IRS and waited the appropriate IRS review period (3-7 years - whatever they are saying now.)

Sorry you are having problems
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Postby Random Musings » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:06 pm

Always have hard copies of my statements, transactions, beneficiaries and all the "important stuff" sent to me via snail mail.

The paperless society (or what was to be) ain't going to happen. It is very helpful in the legal world when individuals and entities have physical evidence to support their case; 1's and 0's can disappear without a trace (then it's he said, she said). Let alone internal incompentence, there is also the risk of hacking.

That's my virtual two cents.

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Postby btenny » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:15 pm

Anyone who has a Treasury Direct account with no proof or paper documentation should talk to some American Indians about their money accounts. Those TD accounts are a disaster in waiting. The government has been losing records and paper for centuries. What makes anyone think that they will stop now that everthing is electronic.

See http://www.ncai.org/News-View.19.0.html ... e92ce91a82

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Re: Vanguard Brokerage Lost My $60K Roth Account!

Postby HueyLD » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:16 pm

Lbill wrote:...one of my Roth accounts with $60,000 in assets disappeared. I entered the twilight zone when it appeared that ALL previous statements, confirmations, and other records of activity in this account was also missing. There was no record anywhere of this account or that it ever existed.

Your experience is so disturbing! It's hard to believe that they have no data redundancy and no redundant backup for all customer data. That's why I continue to receive "paper" statements along with paper everything else even though I definitely prefer "electronic" correspondence.

I wish Vanguard would have an option (like some other brokerages) for the customers to receive electronic correspondence except for the statements. I can print all trade confirmations and read the prospectuses, etc. online, but I refuse to print pages and pages of statements on a regualr basis.

Please keep us updated on the "recovery" of your lost account. Best of luck to you.
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Re: Vanguard Brokerage Lost My $60K Roth Account!

Postby nisiprius » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:32 pm

Lbill wrote:Please be warned - you MUST keep extensive copies and/or paper records of EVERYTHING. I use the web and receive all my statements electronically. I'll NEVER do that again without having copies and tangible records of everything. Now I know what can happen in the blink of an eye to electronic records.
I've been ranting about this for some time.

Unfortunately, I've noticed a steep increase in the pressure being exerted to convince people to go all-electronic. At the moment it's mostly "green" exhortation; and my Vanguard account, for example, is large enough that they waive account maintenance fees without my going all-electronic. But I've already been seduced by a "Reward Checking" account for which electronic statements are a non-negotiable condition, and it's only a matter of time, and not much time, before there are simply visible, explicit, extra, non-negligible fees for mailed paper statement.

I haven't thought so much about glitches, as about the problem of heirs locating assets. Having gone through the sad task of digging through a deceased parent's papers, I can tell you that every time you think you've got it all, someone finds another old bankbook in the back a drawer. More than one person has learned of overlooked assets from a printed statement arriving in the mail. A friend of mine learned of a life insurance policy his dad had that way.

And the state treasurers are getting very impatient with regard to abandoned assets. It varies from state to state, but these days you typically only have a few years to locate assets before the state grabs them.
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Postby TheEternalVortex » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:36 pm

How is a paper statement any more useful than a PDF statement? Either one gives you evidence that you have an account.

Paper statements are easier to lose, in that all it takes is a fire, theft or natural disaster. My electronic files are backed up remotely and in multiple locations, so I am quite confident that they will never disappear.
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Postby JeremiahS » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:45 pm

TheEternalVortex wrote:Paper statements are easier to lose, in that all it takes is a fire, theft or natural disaster. My electronic files are backed up remotely and in multiple locations, so I am quite confident that they will never disappear.


I believe in paper. But I also believe in paper in a fire proof, water proof, locked safe, hidden away at my home in a place that is not likely to be found. I was reading over some insurance paper work one day and I realized that if my only copy of my insurance policy to replace my worldly goods in the event of a fire gets burned in the afore mentioned fire it may turn into a nightmare of a fight with the insurance company. I figure my financial statements and medical documents should be just as safe.
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Postby Lbill » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:52 pm

One other thing about the Vanguard problem was frightening to me. I asked the rep for a contact at Vanguard to initiate an investigation. All I could get was the standard "Customer Service" email contact address, and he had to put me on hold to find that. At that moment I realized I was in deep doodoo because I was facing the prospect of somehow navigating through the vast bureaucracy at Vanguard to get any help recovering my savings. It seems to me there ought to be a better way of handling "serious" customer issues, such as -say - having $60K disappear. Maybe I'll put that on my list of things to ask my next IRA custodian.
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Postby markcoop » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:59 pm

Has anyone actually had to use their paper backup (or any backup) to recover money because of a Vanguard mistake? I've had a couple of issues over the years, noticed them, called them up, problem got fixed.

For what it's worth, I only keep my year-end statements.
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Postby mfen » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:01 pm

Huey: You can just get your paper monthly/quarterly statements. Go to your account profile and go to email options (I think?). There you can designate what you want to receive by email and what you want to receive by snail mail. I only get the monthly and year end by mail. Confirmations, proxy action, profile changes all come by email.
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Postby richard » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:03 pm

Vanguard frequently makes mistakes. I've never experienced or, so far as I can remember, heard of a situation they have not fixed after prodding. Talking to a supervisor is usually a good idea.

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Postby btenny » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:05 pm

A paper statement is a legal document in all the US state and territories. By forcing the bank or brokerage etc. to send you that statement or document you are forcing them to create a audited paper trail inside their company that shows they sent the paper to you and when they sent it. All US and world wide accounting laws and rules built up over the last 200 years are applicable to this paper statement and document trail.

A PDF printout of some posted electronic record is not a legal document. Where is the document trail showing how it was created? Where and what is the legal standing of that document trail? What are the audit requirements on that electronic document? Where are the laws that govern that document and associated document trail? US laws? State Laws? So unless you have some sort of audited and secure and special computer system set up by some very knowledgable people you are probably out of luck. And having backups of your home computer that is not a documented or proven source in the legal sense is equally worthless.

Yes it is nice to go paperless where safe and practical. Yes we are moving in that direction and today for small amounts of money or low risk things maybe that is the way to go. But people need to be selective.

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Postby CyberBob » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:07 pm

TheEternalVortex wrote:How is a paper statement any more useful than a PDF statement?

To you and I (I'm all electronic too) it's not. You can, of course, print the PDF at any time. But, I'm constantly surprised at how many people I run into that don't view the PDF file as 'real', only the physical paper version is real, the electronic version seems to be viewed as always in a state of flux until it's finally fixed and finalized on paper. I've often seen people open PDF's multiple times in a row, just to see if things in the file have changed since they last opened it thirty seconds ago. It seems that if they aren't sure how it works, they don't trust it. Although, it may just be a generational thing, as older people seem to want paper, while younger people often make fun of it as just 'dead trees'.

People don't like change either. I have yet to find places like doctor's offices that will allow me to send an email attachment rather than a fax. Fax is what they know. They simply don't know what to do with an email attachment.

I love being all electronic. My desk couldn't be less cluttered, as their hasn't been a single sheet of paper on it in years (I started electronic banking back 12 years ago). I can, however, also see the importance of a hit-by-a-bus contingency plan. Unless you tell them, your family may not have a clue as to where to look for your electronic stuff. I know mine wouldn't since all my stuff is on a non-Samba Linux server, and I don't know who would have any idea how to read it. Aha! There's my New Year's Resolution: tell someone how to find my electronic records ;)

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Re: Vanguard Brokerage Lost My $60K Roth Account!

Postby eas » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:19 pm

nisiprius wrote:
Lbill wrote:Please be warned - you MUST keep extensive copies and/or paper records of EVERYTHING. I use the web and receive all my statements electronically. I'll NEVER do that again without having copies and tangible records of everything. Now I know what can happen in the blink of an eye to electronic records.
I've been ranting about this for some time.

Unfortunately, I've noticed a steep increase in the pressure being exerted to convince people to go all-electronic. At the moment it's mostly "green" exhortation; and my Vanguard account, for example, is large enough that they waive account maintenance fees without my going all-electronic. But I've already been seduced by a "Reward Checking" account for which electronic statements are a non-negotiable condition, and it's only a matter of time, and not much time, before there are simply visible, explicit, extra, non-negligible fees for mailed paper statement.

I haven't thought so much about glitches, as about the problem of heirs locating assets. Having gone through the sad task of digging through a deceased parent's papers, I can tell you that every time you think you've got it all, someone finds another old bankbook in the back a drawer. More than one person has learned of overlooked assets from a printed statement arriving in the mail. A friend of mine learned of a life insurance policy his dad had that way.

And the state treasurers are getting very impatient with regard to abandoned assets. It varies from state to state, but these days you typically only have a few years to locate assets before the state grabs them.


Going "Green" :roll: doesn't remove the need for the consumer to retain a copy of the record. It just happens that in this case the copy of your record is a PDF, rather than papers in an envelope. You still need to log on and download the document and store it on your own storage. Simply having access to where your documents are stored on VG's server isn't sufficient.
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Postby TheEternalVortex » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:21 pm

A PDF printout of some posted electronic record is not a legal document.


That's not true at all. An electronic document has the same legal standing as a paper document.
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Postby btenny » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:21 pm

Well Cyber Bob the reason that medical offices and brokerages and legal offices will only accept faxes is because that is all that is legal today and on big special documents even faxes are not acceptable. That is why home closings and corporate mergers and so forth are still conducted in person.

Almost all law is based on 400-600 years of requiring things to have signatures on documents. This requirement is woven into thousands of pages of law and rulings over the centuries. We have moved a good deal forward in many areas by allowing fax signatures to take the place of real signatures in the legal sense. But what is good enough for electronic signature is still being debated and put into law. Yes we will get there but it takes time.

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Postby TheEternalVortex » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:24 pm

JeremiahS wrote:
TheEternalVortex wrote:Paper statements are easier to lose, in that all it takes is a fire, theft or natural disaster. My electronic files are backed up remotely and in multiple locations, so I am quite confident that they will never disappear.


I believe in paper. But I also believe in paper in a fire proof, water proof, locked safe, hidden away at my home in a place that is not likely to be found. I was reading over some insurance paper work one day and I realized that if my only copy of my insurance policy to replace my worldly goods in the event of a fire gets burned in the afore mentioned fire it may turn into a nightmare of a fight with the insurance company. I figure my financial statements and medical documents should be just as safe.


Even in the bets case local storage of paper is less safe than much simpler electronic backup. It's not possible to backup physical documents without making copies (and in that case there's no difference from electronic copies).
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Postby btenny » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:26 pm

In what states and what electronic documents? Some yes. Others no. How are the records to be posted? What are the legal corporate processes for creating and sending out those documents? Etc... Many states and state laws are not that far along. Certainly accounting law and regulations and methods are not that complete.

Bill
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Postby Dagwood » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:27 pm

btenny wrote: . . . That is why home closings and corporate mergers and so forth are still conducted in person.



It's interesting, in my experience home closings are done in person, probably to minimize the legal costs of having to track down and assemble couterparty signtures, but in any event they are done "the old fashioned way." On the other hand, in my experience very rarely are all the major parties present for corporate closings in which I've participated -- asset acquisitions, buy-outs, etc. It's much more tedious and time consuming to do, but it's routinely done that way -- closing large corporate transactions on counterparty fax signature pages, even though you wouldn't think so.

Electronic records are no better or worse than paper, in terms of validity or safety. But like paper records, they require the owner to recognize the threats that can damage / destroy them and to take sensible precautions to protect against those eventualities.
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Postby btenny » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:30 pm

All this electronic records is why today all foreclosures and similar notices still require them to be posted in the printed paper pages of some local newspaper. Again 200+ years of public law.

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Postby JeremiahS » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:37 pm

TheEternalVortex wrote:Even in the bets case local storage of paper is less safe than much simpler electronic backup. It's not possible to backup physical documents without making copies (and in that case there's no difference from electronic copies).


I've lost too many hard drives over the years to feel truly safe. Paper copies let me sleep better at night. In the end this may or may not be rational, but I believe half of investing is developing a financial plan that doesn't make you worry all the time.
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Postby btenny » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:43 pm

Sorry Ray but counter party fax signatures of real paper document signatures is miles from a paperless electronically signed and posted PDF document.

My point that was that today the small consumer person has no way to do all that good electronic record keeping. And today there are just very few laws and accounting rules to regulate how companies post and handle electronics documents. So today paper is just easier and better understood and safer.

Bill
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Postby HueyLD » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:44 pm

mfen wrote:Huey: You can just get your paper monthly/quarterly statements. Go to your account profile and go to email options (I think?). There you can designate what you want to receive by email and what you want to receive by snail mail. I only get the monthly and year end by mail. Confirmations, proxy action, profile changes all come by email.

Hi mfen,

Thank you for your help. I was talking to a VG rep a while back and he told me that I could not just turn off the mail for statements. I guess I shouldn't have listened to him. I just updated my account profile to "go green" except for the statements.
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Postby KyleAAA » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:44 pm

I keep a permanent record of all electronic communications.
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Postby junior » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:49 pm

btenny wrote:In what states and what electronic documents? Some yes. Others no. How are the records to be posted? What are the legal corporate processes for creating and sending out those documents? Etc... Many states and state laws are not that far along. Certainly accounting law and regulations and methods are not that complete.

Bill


Do you have information suggesting there's more likely to be a record inside a corporation of a letter sent than of a PDF posted?

I doubt there's any court that would say of a brokerage receipt "Sorry, its a digital record, do it doesn't count!"
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Postby richard » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:52 pm

There's a federal law on electronic signatures
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic ... mmerce_Act

PDF should be as good as paper docs. In both cases, there can be issues as to whether the document is genuine.
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Postby loki » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:01 pm

I am completely green, no paper statements for anything, but I sleep sound knowing everything is backed up. It didn't cost me much time or money to setup ($300 for a NAS, everything else is free and automatic)

Everything goes into Gmail where it is never deleted, only archived, and I keep a local copy via IMAP in case something happens to my Gmail account. That local copy is backed up automatically onto the web (using Dropbox: http://www.dropbox.com/), locally to a RAID 1 NAS with Time Machine, and remotely copied to a HD every year or so that I remove and move to a family members house (in case of fire / theft / etc.).

In order for me to lose my digital copy of anything (not just my email but my entire drive including documents, music, pictures, etc.) the following would have to happen all at the exact same time:
  • Gmail would have to lose my data
  • Dropbox would have to lose my data
  • both drives in my NAS would have to go bad
  • the remote copy would have to be damaged somehow

And everything is automatic (except for the remote HD, I have to physically move that :P). That's more to say than those who rely on paper statements and have to file things manually, make multiple copies to store in multiple places case of fire / theft, etc.

Don't be afraid of technology, go green! :)
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Re: VANGUARD BROKERAGE LOST MY $60k ROTH ACCOUNT!

Postby geekpryde » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:04 pm

bearwolf wrote:I keep an electronic copy of all bank, credit card, Brokerage account statements plus a printed copy of the year end statement. The copies are kept in PDF format, hopefully that format will endure. Of course electronic copies are subject to media failure, but I also have safe deposit backup disks that get rotated every month or two. So in theory I have at least 4 copies. The one on my hard disk. The one on my local backup disk and one copy on each of the USB disks that I rotate through the safe deposit box. Which reminds me, it's time to do my monthly rotation.


Everyone on this forum, actually ANYONE with important documents on a PC, should seriously consider backing up into the "cloud". I use mozy.com. Very cheap, easy to use, works in background with hardly any user interaction. Backups are stored around the world.

http://mozy.com/

This does not replace printed hard copies, but for electronic backup it beats almost any other option on the bang-for-the-buck backup.

There are also some other competitors, including Amazon S3, Carbonite, etc.
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Postby FamilyMan » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:10 pm

I guess someone at Vanguard right now is wondering why hundreds of people just now switched from e-statements to snail mail. I justed printed a hardcopy of my account before my Roth IRA conversion. Sorry but thanks for the tip LBill.

This forum's members are such huge proponents and clients for Vanguard. Any chance someone at Vanguard's IT department could lend some advise on different tips on safe guarding your account from errors and identity theft? Could Mr. Bogle pull some strings to get someone on this site for a Q&A thread?
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Postby mikep » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:17 pm

FamilyMan wrote:I guess someone at Vanguard right now is wondering why hundreds of people just now switched from e-statements to snail mail. I justed printed a hardcopy of my account before my Roth IRA conversion. Sorry but thanks for the tip LBill.

This forum's members are such huge proponents and clients for Vanguard. Any chance someone at Vanguard's IT department could lend some advise on different tips on safe guarding your account from errors and identity theft? Could Mr. Bogle pull some strings to get someone on this site for a Q&A thread?


See https://personal.vanguard.com/us/help/S ... ontent.jsp
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Postby btenny » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:29 pm

Well I guess we may be getting closer to real paperless e-commerce than I thought. Over the last 10 years we now have 47 states on board the UETA act that talks about paperless transactions. In 2000, the last year I read this stuff we had maybe 10 or so states. Today only New York and Illinois and ?? are still not on board. Yes these states have their own laws to cover this stuff but are these laws the same? What is OK? Again I suggest special knowledge is needed. Too much detail for the average consumer at least for now if there is much at stake.

Yes as pointed out by others PDFs may be almost as good as paper documents. But does the PDF document have a hash record attached. Does your computer check this hash. MY PDFs from Wellsttrade may have these but I don't know where to look. If not who knows where this PDF came from and how it was handled. Did the PDF get posted by the company or some hacker? This hash is the same idea as keeping the postmarked envelope for paper statements. It provides some proof of transmission validation.

Bill
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Postby nisiprius » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:36 pm

TheEternalVortex wrote:How is a paper statement any more useful than a PDF statement? Either one gives you evidence that you have an account.
Agreed.
Paper statements are easier to lose, in that all it takes is a fire, theft or natural disaster. My electronic files are backed up remotely and in multiple locations, so I am quite confident that they will never disappear.
I disagree. PDF files are probably as good or better than paper for the last year or so of records, but beyond five years or so you are not allowing for the effect of version skew. Call it "progress" if it makes you feel better.

Unless you keep an inventory of all of your electronic files, and every time they rev the OS or your software you take the time to systematically open them all to make sure they are still compatible, you will get a nasty surprise.

I had one when Apple quietly removed the capability of reading MFS files in Mac OS, and another when Microsoft decided that Excel, which had always been able to read Multiplan files, no longer needed to have that ability.

OK, PDF files. Mark my words. You won't believe this until it actually happens to you, but it will. Some day you will try to open an oldish PDF file using current software and it won't open.

Standard, schmandards, nobody implements every nook and cranny of the standards and nobody tests all of them. Something may be a perfectly legal, valid, documented structure in a file format, but if it becomes rarely used, new software will have accidental bugs in its ability to deal with the now-arcane format features, and they won't be caught.

Worse yet, perhaps some extremely popular program X writes very slightly incorrect PDF files. For as long as program X is popular, every PDF reader will be forced to tolerate its eccentricities and nobody will even know there's a problem. When program X goes to join Visicalc, WordStar, and dBase II in software Valhalla, the necessity to tolerate its quirky PDF will be forgotten and dropped from SQA test plans.

See, it's not just that nobody can read 8-inch floppies. It's that even if they could, nobody knows how to read the IBM DisplayWriter files on them. The bits are probably just as good as ever.

My old 65K USB sticks from the USB 1.1 days didn't read, at least not reliably, with USB 2.0. Oh, in theory they should read. There's no reason why they shouldn't. Care to take a bet on whether all of your external USB 2.0 storage devices will work on your first USB 3.0 machine?

Meanwhile, I have some paper documents "printed" via spirit duplicator circa 1964, which is probably just about the least durable physical printing process ever devised, and they are faded but perfectly legible.
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Postby JeffX » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:37 pm

There is a reason i have a masters degree in Information Assurance.

Information Security is compromised of Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability.

This clearly is an incident of availability. They may not have proper security procedures in place to prevent this from happening in the future. Auditing?
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Postby ryuns » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:38 pm

TheEternalVortex wrote:
JeremiahS wrote:
TheEternalVortex wrote:Paper statements are easier to lose, in that all it takes is a fire, theft or natural disaster. My electronic files are backed up remotely and in multiple locations, so I am quite confident that they will never disappear.


I believe in paper. But I also believe in paper in a fire proof, water proof, locked safe, hidden away at my home in a place that is not likely to be found. I was reading over some insurance paper work one day and I realized that if my only copy of my insurance policy to replace my worldly goods in the event of a fire gets burned in the afore mentioned fire it may turn into a nightmare of a fight with the insurance company. I figure my financial statements and medical documents should be just as safe.




Even in the bets case local storage of paper is less safe than much simpler electronic backup. It's not possible to backup physical documents without making copies (and in that case there's no difference from electronic copies).


Thanks for being the devil's advocate. I'm with you. While I still need improvement on tracking and backing up things electronically, I'm a thousand times better than I am with paper anything. I'm not sure if it's a generational thing, but paper is not advantageous in most cases. Hell, people at my work jest that if you don't want to leave a trail, print your document and hand it to someone. As soon as you email or save something, it's in three different places.
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Postby neverknow » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:45 pm

..
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Postby mfen » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:51 pm

markcoop wrote:

Has anyone actually had to use their paper backup (or any backup) to recover money because of a Vanguard mistake? I've had a couple of issues over the years, noticed them, called them up, problem got fixed


Not at Vanguard. But at a bank just a couple of years ago I had to present the paper deposit slip to recoup money not properly credited. A phone call to the bank ended with show us the proof. So I went to the branch with my teller printed deposit slip. We do not overnight deposit either (business deposits).
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VG automatic exchange issue

Postby Path » Mon Jan 04, 2010 6:12 pm

I have had one issue with VG's system.

I changed the dollar amount for monthly automatic exchange, got confirmation and was able to see the new $ amount thru online system. But actual exchanges were happening for my old $ amount.

When I contacted VG they said yes they knew the issue, system migration to new technology had some problem. That time rep told me that data that user see online comes from a different system and actual exchange happens thru a different system and because of system bug these two systems were not in synch.

I hope original poster's problem is because of some trivial system glitch. But definitely it is not very comforting to hear such story.
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