April 25, 2005

E*Trade and more reflexive information stupidity

So here I am, eager E*Trade customer. I have some funds (for once) in an account, and I'd like to do the sensible thing and open an IRA account of a type I do not presently own. E*Trade's website tells me happily that this process can be completed online "in minutes!" ...especially if the funds are available in an E*Trade account, which they are. Excellent. Start the process. I have no more than a reflexive twinge giving them my SSN, because a) they already have it for my brokerage account (handed to them by my employer, but that's another whole story) and b) because I'm asking them to initiate transactions with the government in my name. So, OK, that's sort of what this number is for.

All is well, and I'm five or six screenfuls of information in, when I get a screen which tells me "You may designate beneficiaries to receive your assets in the event of your death." Okay, that makes sense to me. This is about planning for the future, after all; I can have several beneficiaries, primary and contingent, yada, yada. Hm. Well, how about my young nephews - they're just the type to blow whatever meager amounts of lucre I might leave behind in a suitably irresponsible manner (hopefully on good Scotch and perhaps members of the fairer sex, or the same sex if they end up preferring that).

So I enter in my older nephew's info. He's around 3. After his name and address, it wants...his Social Security number. Hm. Well, he doesn't have one yet, I don't think; or at least, if he does, I don't have it.

But there's no way to tell it that. So I enter zeros.

Nope. BZZZT. Big fat error messages involving invalid SSNs.

Fine then; I'll take out the SSN entirely.


Now I'm a tad peeved, but that's still OK - I'll just open the account now and add them later, since I don't plan on kicking off this mortal coil in the next couple of days.

Nope. Despite telling me I may add beneficiaries here, apparently I must add them, or it won't let me open the fucking account.

So not only do I have to provide a beneficiary (which I'm a little annoyed about) but I have to provide someone else's Social Security Number in order to open my own fucking IRA.

What the fuck is up with that?

They confirm to me on the phone that no, there is no legal requirement for this information, and that I could fill out a paper application in which I did not offer a SSN for my beneficiary. I fail to see why I should be expected to have that information, given that it's information I'm not supposed to divulge to anyone else. Apparently, then, this is purely because the web application can't be bothered to handle the case where I might not want to disclose this information-I'm-not-really-supposed-to-have-about-other-people. What if I wanted to leave my assets to someone who wasn't my spouse or family member? Given that I don't have an immediate family of my own, this is not that unusual...and in my nephew's case, he may not even have one of the damn things yet.

E*Trade just lost some business.

Posted by jbz at April 25, 2005 4:13 PM | TrackBack

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