Consumers Lax in Protecting Online IDs

Survey highlights need for extra caution during holidays, says PayPal.

by staff writer
- Oct 23, 2008

Online shoppers in the U.S., Canada and U.K. are twice as likely to be victims of identity theft as those in France, Germany and Spain, according to a recent PayPal survey—which revealed that consumers are often careless about guarding personal information.

The survey found that 10 percent of Web buyers in the three English-speaking countries have had their identities stolen online, and 25 percent of the same group knows someone who has.

This doesn't mean European buyers are safer in cyberspace, says Michael Barrett, chief information security officer for PayPal, just that there is less e-commerce taking place in those regions.

"More identity theft tends to occur in countries where a higher percentage of e-commerce is concentrated," Barrett says. "But e-commerce is growing in prominence around the world, and fraudsters will likely follow the money."

Indeed, in 2007, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission received 813,899 fraud and identity theft complaints from consumers—a 21 percent increase over 2006. More than a third of these cases involved a stolen credit card number.

PayPal is using the results of its Trust and Safety survey as a platform to promote online vigilance during the coming holiday shopping season. As part of the safety campaign, the company introduced a "safety training" site, designed as an interactive game to educate Web users in online fraud detection and prevention.

"One of the most important things consumers can do to protect themselves online is to practice good password hygiene," writes Barrett in the PayPal Blog. "Unfortunately, our survey showed that consumers across the board are generally lax when it comes to protecting their passwords."

Almost half of consumers use important dates such as birthdates, family member names or pets' names as their online passwords—and a good deal more than that have shared their passwords with friends or family members, the survey found.

PayPal's Barrett says one of the best ways to protect personal and financial information is to use passwords that combine upper and lowercase letters and numbers, and change them often. He also recommends using anti-virus software and a newer Web browser that has a phishing filter. Additionally, never click on links in e-mails—even those that come from PayPal.

Naturally, the company also recommends using secure payment systems, such as its own, when making online purchases.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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