While I have been with Sharebuilder for awhile now and not had any really horrible issues (other than stocks not being purchased live so they cost a few cents more), recently I was the victim of what I can only see as fraud.
I am not a heavy day trader and make about $20,000 per year as a single mother so Sharebuilder was a wonderful way for me to invest in a variety of stocks without having to pay for a whole share.
I decided, not in my best interest apparently, to move my money in options from optionsxpress to Sharebuilder so that I would not have to keep up with two companies. I have never had options issues with optionsxpress and since ING is a large company I expected the same amount of professional service from Sharebuilder.
After a night of indepth research I decided to place several options. I ALWAYS place limits on my options because honestly my Sharebuilder account has never had more than a couple of hundred dollars in socks and options at any given time. The option I picked was a long shot with a large biopharm company so the option was $.10 per contract. This insured that when I purchased the stock after hours than when the sale became available in the morning since I was purchasing 10 contracts they would not be purchased if the option had risen any overnight.
When I checked my account the next day, there had apparently been talk of a merger or acquisition of this particular company and their stock price had more than tripled so obviously the option was already well in the money and now valued at over 1.50 per option contract rather than the .10 and sharebuilder had purchased it at this price even though I had only $104.00 in case available to spend I was now in debt over a thousand dollars (a negative balance).
I contacted Sharebuilder immediately via email and asked what was wrong with their software because I knew I had put a limit on the option and I had never been allowed to buy past my available cash previously (the site will come back with the you dont have enough available funds for thiis purchase if you try to buy something even one cent outside the range including their fees). I demanded that the balance be taken back to what it was the previous day before the transaction was made.
I received a call from a Sharebuilder agent who was well beyond rude and insisted that they NEVER have problems with their software and that I MUST have made a purchase and not put a limit on it. I ask him what kind of ignorant company would buy an option (mind you I have no margin trading ability on this account) when I had less than one tenth of the purchase price. He responded that I would have until the option expired to make the money back at which point I told him I would simply have to contact an attorney and he hung up.
Three days later all of my stocks I had purchased were sold, along with the option which had now dropped since sharebuilder purchased it at its high and I was left with nothing (all options and stocks were sold) and owing them $409 after less than a week. This company is famous for its nickle and diming of the little guy but to completely wipe me out and then offer no further contact other than to demand payment before they "seized" the money from my bank account.
Of the options that I had owned BEFORE this transaction, there were several (including a BAC NOV 40 call) that were worth multiple hundreds more than I purchased them for (the BAC in particular would now be worth $240 which I purchased for $24). So not only did they profit by scamming me but I seriously doubt they dumped that option considering it didn't expire until next month.
If the financial world wants to know why it's failing, THIS is why. You scam and rob people, especially middle and lower class people of every dime they have and then you lose a loyal customer who actually BROUGHT you new customers.
My warning is to stay AWAY from Sharebuilders system, you may pay a few more dollars with eTrade or AmeriTrade but you won't get ripped off. And for those who don't know, you can buy stocks directly from a lot of major companies a share at a time and NOT pay the fees these places are charging.
Glen Allen, Virginia