This is getting well and truly ridiculous.

On Wednesday, online discount broker Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD) joined the financial equivalent of the gang that couldn't shoot straight. Perhaps in furtherance of the company's announced plans to become more like a bank, in February, Ameritrade took a page from Bank of America's (NYSE:BAC) book and -- whoopsie! -- lost a backup tape full of personally identifiable data on its customers.

Of course, Ameritrade isn't in B of A's league just yet. Whereas the latter managed to lose a million customer records -- including those of several U.S. senators -- Ameritrade lost "just" 200,000 records. But although Ameritrade lagged B of A in the size of its gaffe, it came pretty close to matching B of A in the magnitude of its procrastination. You'll notice that I said Ameritrade lost the data "in February." And what month is it now? That's right -- Ameritrade waited two months before informing its clients that their data had gone missing. That's a pretty close second to B of A's record of losing its tapes in December and admitting this in March.

Now listen. I take it as no personal offense that I am a client of both of these companies, which can't seem to keep hold of my data for more than five minutes without misplacing it. Hey, accidents happen. No hard feelings. But on behalf of the 1.2 million-plus customers whose financial safety you two banks have put at risk, I'd like to ask a couple of favors.

One: When you lose people's sensitive data, don't sit on the news of your mistake for two months, thinking, "hey, maybe it'll turn up." When your customers are at risk, tell them about it right away.

Two: Accept responsibility for your actions. Don't just fob off your mistake on the transportation company. I don't care whether you're shipping my data hither and yon by UPS, the USPS, or two guys and a truck. If you've got initial custody of the data, and you pick the contractor to move it, it's your responsibility to get it where it's going -- or to accept responsibility when it doesn't get there.

Speaking of which, the next time you decide to steal a page from somebody's playbook, consider imitating ChoicePoint (NYSE:CPS) or Reed Elsevier (NYSE:ENL) -- the two data companies who recently offered to pay for a year's worth of credit-monitoring when data in their possession was stolen by hackers. If those guys are willing to pay up to protect people from an intentional criminal act by fraudsters, the least that you guys can do is pay up to protect the people put at risk by yourown mistakes.

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article. Three guesses why not.