Local News

N.C. State Professor Victim Of Online Theft

Posted October 10, 2005 7:35 a.m. EDT

— With the proper security measures, most online financial transactions are considered safe. But hackers found their way into a Wake County man's online brokerage account and allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars.

K. L. Murty, a professor at North Carolina Sate University, poured much of his life savings into an E-Trade account, but while he and his wife were overseas this past summer, their stock fund drained from about $216,000 to about $56,000.

"Unfortunately, I'm not a computer specialist and that's a problem," Murty said.

When he learned of the $175,000 loss, Murty said he nearly had a heart attack.

"It's mind boggling," Murty said. "I can't believe that could happen to anybody."

Murty said that since he found out about the loss, he had not been able to sleep well and had not been able to concentrate on his day-to-day activities.

"We don't know where to go," Murty said. "We feel helpless."

According to E-Trade, Murty's computer had no firewall, anti-virus software or spyware protection, which opened the door to sophisticated hackers who eventually intercepted sensitive e-mails and passwords.

"You need to do things to protect you," said Amnon Nissan, a spokesman for Internet service provider Deltaforce Technologies.

Nissan likened a person working online without computer protection to that person giving out the key to his or her home.

"You're leaving the tool for somebody else to assume your identity," Nissan said.

But Murty said he blames E-Trade.

Company policy states transfers to third-party accounts should not occur without notarized authorization. E-Trade wrongly assumed it was wiring the money from Murty's brokerage account to his bank account.

"The problem is, I'm 64 years old," Murty said. "We're at the stage where we should be thinking about retiring."

While E-Trade said it did nothing wrong, the company said it recovered most of the money Murty lost.

"Through our investigation, we've been able to recover most of the funds," company spokeswoman Pam Erickson told WRAL. "We plan to restore the remainder of his account. We consider the situation resolved."

Murty said he would believe the situation was resolved when he sees the money in his account.

While no arrests have been made, investigators said they do have suspects.