Investing Site a Draw in Wash.

Washington state officials knew there was a need for an Internet guide aimed at beginning online investors. But they had no idea just how big that need was.

Washington launched the Investing Online Resource Center last November without spending a dime to advertise it.

In its first 10 weeks, the IORC logged 5 million hits, said the site's founder, Deborah Bortner.

"Clearly, we underestimated the extent to which current and potential online investors were desperate for high-quality, noncommercial information about the basics of investing on the Web," said Bortner, director of Washington's Department of Financial Institutions Securities Division, which is running the project.

The IORC site features basic online trading information, a ranking of online brokerage firms and an online investing resource center that lists helpful World Wide Web sites.

Thirty online brokerage firms provide a direct link or a prominent back page to the IORC site.

"We realized that people from all over the country would be using our site, but we're getting many international users as well," Bortner said. "Our goal with IORC was to put the investor education information right in front of people's noses when they most needed it — when they're thinking about doing business with an online broker."

The IORC site is funded through Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit group that has the dual goals of serving as an independent source of investor education materials and helping to prosecute securities fraud.

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