Security on the Internet
Internet has become an essential tool for daily tasks. The options people have nowadays are limitless: banking, shopping, booking reservations, chatting, and so on. However, several drawbacks have arisen that are of concern to all of the internet users. Unfortunately, incidents of auction fraud, the sale of illegal items, and criminal trespassing are booming in the e-commerce market. The nature of the Internet and the ease of gaining anonymity on it, has made crime easy and catching criminals much more difficult.
Many cases of fraud have occurred: people who collect payments from buyers and never ship the goods to them. Earlier in the summer, for example, former eBay seller Robert Guest pleaded guilty to mail fraud. Prosecutors had accused Guest of collecting approximately $37,000 from bidders for items he never shipped. 1 Cases like these are a real drawback for e-commerce. The lack of tangibility has been a major obstacle in doing transactions online and these cases only serve to destroy the little confidence that consumers have gained so far. Many people are hesitant to shop online, for example, and when they hear of fraud cases it only serves to confirm their initial fears. That is why organizations such as The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are educating consumers to protect themselves. These agencies know that thousands of consumers are taking advantage of the opportunity to shop from the comfort of their homes via personal computers. A person can buy anything and avoid crowded malls, long lines and busy parking lots. Furthermore, the Internet is always open: 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. In order to actually benefit from online shopping, certain things must be taken into consideration. The BBBs Web site contains a section that offers tips on What You Need to Know About Cybershopping. 2 The tips are the following:
When dealing with a new merchant, ask for its physical location in order to check its reliability with consumer agencies (i.e. The BBB).
Determine the companys refund and return policy before you place an order.
Never give out your Internet password. When creating a password avoid using established numbers, such as your house number, birth date, telephone number or Social Security number. If you are asked to create a new account, never use the same password you use for other accounts.
Be cautious if you are asked to provide personal information (i.e. Social Security number or bank account information).
Look at the address of the site, the URL ensures that you are dealing with the right company. It is good to print out a copy of your order and confirmation number for your records.
Know your rights. The same laws that protect you when you shop by phone or mail apply when you shop online. Under the law, a company must ship your order within the time stated in its ads. If no time is promised, the company should ship your order within 30 days after receiving it, or give you an option notice.
If you decide to pay by credit card or charge card, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, consumers have the right to dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor is investigating them. In the case of unauthorized use of a consumers credit card or charge card, consumers are generally held liable only for the first $50 in charges. 3 If you are not comfortable entering your credit card or charge account number online, call it in to the companys 800 number or fax it.
The FTC also contains a section which offers consumers tips on online safety. In addition to the ones made by the BBB, The FTC also suggests that:
Use a secure browser. This is the software that you use to navigate the Internet. Your browser should comply with industry security standards, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Secure Electronic Transaction (SET). These standards scramble the purchase information you send over the Internet, ensuring the security of your transactions. Most computers come with a browser already installed or you can download one over the Internet for free.