ETrade offers online transaction safety guarantee


Consumers think the problem is much larger, however, so the company is working to bolster consumer confidence with the new program. 'If consumers see it as a problem, it may preclude them from putting their money into online accounts,' Erickson said. 'We want to preclude that conclusion.'

Brokerage accounts, unlike bank accounts, aren't protected by federal banking insurance programs under current law.

The move by ETrade makes sense, according to several analysts.

'I think that as word gets out, it will definitely help them acquire new customers,' said Avivah Litan, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. 'It is a bold move -- consumers don't realize that they're not protected' under current law if someone steals money from their online brokerage account. 'This is the kind of protection that people are looking for. Consumers are very nervous.'

Previously, if fraud occurred, consumers could only hope that their brokerage firm would reimburse them for any losses, even though it would not be required legally to do so, she said.