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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 199 - November 07, 2001 - ISSN 1539-5065    3 of 3

Avoid Internet Fraud

By Ina Steiner
November 07, 2001

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Consumers reported losses totaling $4.3 million, or $636 per person in Internet fraud to the National Consumers League's (NCL) Internet Fraud Watch (IFW) during the first ten months of 2001, up from $3.3 million and $427 per person for all of 2000.

Though consumers are using their credit cards more online, money orders are still the most common way Internet fraud victims paid for their products or services. "Credit cards are the safest way to pay because you can dispute the charges if something goes wrong, Grant said. "And new technologies like substitute or single-use credit card numbers add an extra measure of protection against someone else fraudulently using your account."

NCL has released Six Tips for Shopping Safely Online to help consumers avoid scams and mishaps this holiday season.

  1. Get the scoop on the seller. Check complaint records at your state or local consumer protection agency and Better Business Bureau. Get the physical address and phone number to contact the seller offline. Look for sellers belonging to programs that encourage good business practices and help resolve complaints.
  2. Use a credit card. It's the safest way to pay because you have the legal right to dispute charges for goods or services that were never ordered, never received, or misrepresented.
  3. Ask your credit card issuer about "substitute" or "single-use" credit card numbers. This new technology allows you to use your credit card without putting your real account number online, protecting it from abuse by "hackers" or dishonest employees of the seller.
  4. Look for clues about security. When you provide payment information, the "http" at the beginning of the address bar should change to "https" or "shttp." Your browser may show whether the information is being encrypted, or scrambled, as it is being sent. See what Web sites say about how they safeguard your information in transmission and storage. Don't provide sensitive information by email.
  5. Know the real deal. Get all details before you buy: a complete description of items; total price, including shipping; delivery time; warranty information; return policy; and what to do if you have problems.
  6. Keep proof handy. Print and file the information in case you need proof later.

Online auction sales remained the number one Internet fraud for the first ten months of 2001, though decreasing from 78 percent of the frauds reported to the IFW in 2000 to 63 percent in 2001. Other top frauds for 2001, in order, are non-auction sales of general merchandise, Nigerian money offers, Internet access services, Internet adult services, computer equipment/software, work-at-home plans, advance fee loans, credit card issuing, and business opportunities. The average loss per consumer to online auction sales was $478.

For more information, visit http://www.nclnet.org.

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

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