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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Do you feel safe shopping online?

Internet shoppers in the UK are not getting enough protection from rogue traders, according to trading standards officers.

They say those responsible for protecting shoppers often do not know how to investigate online con-tricks.

Most officers do not understand how the internet works, and do not know how to trace the owner of the web site.

To ensure consumer confidence in e-commerce, they say, local and national governments must join business and law enforcers to implement major changes.

What has your experience of online shopping been? Do you feel safe doing business on the internet?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I'm always checking my credit card statements for spurious transactions

B Maguire, UK
I do use the Internet for credit card purchases - and I always worry about it. I'm always checking my credit card statements for spurious transactions. It's not sending my details that worries me - most secure servers use 128-bit encryption and no one is going to hack that - but what worries me greatly is what these companies then do with your details, probably keep them on their database that could potentially be hacked into. If you look at the stats you're still far more likely to be the victim of credit card fraud in a restaurant or shop. How many restaurants have you been to where you happily place your card on a plate only to watch it being taken away out of sight to the kitchens - crazy.
B Maguire, UK

The only purchases I have made via the Web are for music CDs. Although the site offers membership and an automatic charging facility, I deliberately choose not to, inputting the credit number only when I make an order. However, if they get the order wrong it can cause more aggravation than it is worth.
Hazel, UK

I have a separate credit card with a very low credit limit which I use for my (very rare) Internet purchases. I refuse to give my credit card online to any company that doesn't have a known physical presence and refuse to give it to any site that doesn't use secure sockets. As yet I haven't suffered any form of fraud, but my rock-bottom credit limit on my "Internet card" ensures that any fraudster can only do a very limited amount of damage.
John B, UK

Provided you take sensible precautions, you should experience no problems

Paul , London, UK
Provided you take sensible precautions to deal on line with reputable suppliers whose addresses and telephone numbers are available, you should in my opinion experience no problems. I have purchased a wide range of goods from US and UK suppliers using a credit card over the last two years and have had no problems at all. Also you save money over High Street prices!
Paul , London, UK

I use the Internet to buy things fairly often, and although I'm aware of the risk I still decide to make the purchase, purely for the convenience factor. I think that the opportunity for credit card fraud is more likely to occur through people being careless with credit card sales receipts. They often have all the card details on, so it's very important to destroy those receipts that you do not intend to keep for records purposes.
Tim, UK ---> USA

I stick to reputable companies

J Mead, UK
I follow the guidelines for safe shopping. I stick to reputable companies, use only secure servers for payment and goods are paid for by credit card. So far, no problems at all. I've even ordered second-hand books from America and was pleased with the results. There's plenty of magazines offering evaluation of websites, I find 'Web User' particularly useful.
J Mead, UK

I have avoided it like the plague! It is bad enough getting spam without all the shopping 'aggro' as well.
Joyce Morris, England

Never had anything but good experiences with online retailers. So long as you make sure you're going via a secure server, it's no more of a risk than giving out your CC details over the phone, or to a waiter at a restaurant. It's more than likely more secure, because of the records kept.
Luc, UK

Beware of secure sites with expired SSL certificates

Stephen, USA
Never ever order any goods from a URL (web address) that is not prefixed with "https://" on the form that you are typing your credit card info into. Also beware of secure sites with expired SSL certificates and hostnames that do not match the SSL certificate. Most reputable companies will invest in a secure server certificate, from a well known certificate-issuing body, such as Verisign or Thawte. On a well configured e-commerce site, your web browser should never issue a message about a problem with the SSL certificate. If in doubt do not send your details.
Stephen, USA

I have been put off from using the net for making purchases, due to the levels of fraud being committed. However, I have only just bought something using my credit card and if it goes without a hitch, I think I'll be using the net more frequently to buy goods.
Faisal, West Mids, UK

Web sites are great for browsing for products and suppliers, email is great for checking availability, but I'll always send a cheque with an order in the snail mail ... not having a credit card means I'm immune to that kind of fraud.

When you buy something online you tend to get lots of junk mail from then on. A good idea is to get a temporary e-mail address, such as hotmail and just use it for ordering, confirmations etc.
Gareth, Cincinnati, USA

So long as you take sensible precautions

Andy Millward, UK
So long as you take sensible precautions (e.g. using reputable suppliers with certified secure sites), shopping online is mostly very convenient and often more secure than other forms of trading. (Are you sure you know what waiter at the restaurant where you ate lunch did with your credit card while it was out of your sight?)
Andy Millward, UK

Not really. I purchased one thing and now get 20 junk e-mails a day - mostly about debts and porn!
Richard, UK

Someone once tried to use my credit card number to buy a laptop computer online from a computer discount warehouse. The merchant sent a letter to me because the order did not look right. My card had not been stolen so I doubt the perpetrator had the correct expiration date, and of course the shipping address did not match the card address. I told them the order was fraudulent and I contacted the police in the California town where the order was supposed to be sent. They did some follow-up but of course it was impossible to pin it on anyone. The name on the order didn't match anyone at the address. So fraud does exist but with some diligence on the part of the merchant it can be held to a minimum. Despite this experience I order things online all the time. After all, at least in the US it is the merchant or the bank that is on the hook for the loss in case of fraud, not the consumer.
Tom, USA

Maybe I have been lucky but all the companies I have dealt with via the Net have been excellent and were falling over themselves to prove that online shopping is safe. Of course we need to be responsible and if an offer looks too good to be true - whether made on the internet, in a newspaper or through junk mail - it probably is. There are people who are willing to send off money to a foreign address because they believe that they are in line to win a large prize. Nothing will ever safeguard them
Gill, UK

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See also:

18 Jun 01 | Business
Targeting rogue traders
18 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Cybercops arrest online liberty
27 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Hacking: A history
12 Nov 99 | UK
Netting the pornographers
11 Feb 00 | UK
A - Z: Hack attack
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