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10 tips for investing online

Online Banking BasicsBefore venturing out on the Web to buy, sell or trade stocks, do plenty of research. Online trading can offer a self-directed investor a fast, thrifty way to manage their investment portfolio, but it can also wipe out years of careful saving.

Here are 10 tips from the North American Securities Administrators Association to guide your decisions.

  1. Receive full disclosure, prior to opening your account, about the alternatives for buying and selling securities and how to obtain account information if you cannot access the firm's Web site.

  2. Understand that most likely you are not linked directly to the market, and that the click of your mouse does not instantaneously execute the trade.

  3. Receive information from the firm to substantiate any advertised claims concerning the ease and speed of online trading.

  4. Receive information from the firm about significant Web site outages, delays and other interruptions to securities trading and account access.
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  6. Obtain information before trading about entering and canceling orders (market, limit and stop loss), and the details and risks to margin accounts (borrowing to buy stocks).

  7. Determine whether you are receiving delayed or real-time stock quotes and when your account information was last updated.

  8. Review the firm's privacy and Web site security policies and whether your name may be used for mailing lists or other promotional activities by the firm or any other party.

  9. Receive clear information about sales commissions and fees and conditions that apply to any advertised discount on commissions.

  10. Know how to, and if necessary, contact a customer service representative with your concerns and request prompt attention and fair consideration.

  11. Contact your state or provincial securities agency to verify the registration and if applicable, the licensing status and disciplinary history of the online brokerage firm. Also, contact these agencies if it's necessary to file a complaint.

-- Updated: March 28, 2003

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