Experts say Internet shopping can be safer

Online stores offer great benefits to shoppers including 24/7 convenience,
price breaks, the ease of ordering from your own home and a variety of products.
Yet there’s also a lot of noise out there about the dangers of Internet shopping,
including online scams and the potential for Internet identity theft. These
issues may be putting off those people who have never shopped online before.

A recent study, however, shows that consumers who take common-sense precautions,
monitor their financial accounts on the Internet, and pay bills online actually
may be safer than those who visit brick-and-mortar stores and pay bills through
the mail.

Canadians can take the lead from a U.S. survey which estimates that 9.3 million
Americans were victims of identity theft in 2004. It also found that using the
Internet can reduce the impact of fraud dramatically. Identity theft victims
who regularly went online to look at their financial transactions often uncovered
fraudulent activity much more quickly than those who awaited paper records in
the mail. The survey, conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research for several
financial institutions, timated that consumers who discovered fraudulent use
of their accounts online sustained an average theft of $500. Those who only
checked paper records lost an average of $4,500.

Moreover, experts say criminals often have easier access to personal information
from statements and receipts in unopened mail that gets tossed in the trash,
than from password-protected and electronically secured Internet accounts.

"Transacting online can actually combat identity theft very effectively
if people do a few simple things like monitoring their financial accounts and
protecting their financial information," said Rob Chesnut, senior vice
president of Trust and Safety for eBay and the PayPal online payment service.

"Consumers should be encouraged by the security that the Internet can
offer them," Chesnut says. "With simple precautions, anyone can shop
with confidence from their desktop."