Investors should always keep good records of their securities transactions, including copies of account statements, trade confirmations, and canceled checks. Although the federal securities laws require brokers to keep particular records for specified periods of time, your broker is not required to keep records indefinitely. You may have a difficult time obtaining copies of records from your broker if the time your broker must keep the records has expired.

The length of time your broker must keep records depends on the type of record. For example, brokers must retain blotters (records containing details of all purchases and sales of securities) for at least six years. But they must keep copies of trade confirmations for only three years.

Make sure you examine your account statements and trade confirmations carefully to make sure they accurately reflect the date, price, and type of security bought or sold and the certificate number of any security you received from or delivered to your broker. If you see a mistake, call your broker immediately.

You can find a complete list of the records that broker-dealers must keep and how long they must be kept under Securities Exchange Act Rule 17a-3 ("Records to Be Made by Certain Exchange Members, Brokers and Dealers") and Rule 17a-4 ("Records to Be Preserved by Certain Exchange Members, Brokers and Dealers").