Security Keeps 1 in 4 U.S. Shoppers Offline

A new survey conducted by Forrester Custom Consumer Research on behalf of the Business Software Alliance finds that nearly all online consumers believe it’s important to protect themselves online, and one in four U.S. consumers will be protecting themselves this holiday season by not doing any online shopping.

The study surveyed nearly 1,100 U.S. consumers in late October and early November as part of a larger research effort also involving consumers in Canada, Germany, Great Britain. The survey in general found a strong awareness of Internet security issues among U.S. consumers surveyed: over half the respondents (53 percent) indicated they are planning to upgrade their computer security software within the next three months, and the “the vast majority” say they are actively seeking information from friends, families, coworkers, ISPs, the media, and others about how to shop safely online. Fully 81 percent say they’re using antivirus software on their computers, and over two thirds (67 percent) say they’ve installed anti-spyware packages. Nearly as many (65 percent) use email spam filters and 63 percent report using firewalls.

Neil MacBride, BSA’s vice president of legal affairs, said “The good news is that we have found consumers are taking proactive steps to protect themselves to ensure a safe online shopping experience. The bad news is that nearly two thirds say Internet security concerns will affect their shopping at some level this year.” The BSA survey found that 61 percent of consumers predicted Internet security concerns will affect their online shopping at some level. Online auction sites seem to make consumers particularly nervous, with 71 percent or respondents worried about bidding on or selling goods online.

To help consumers be more aware of online security issues and protect themselves against fraud and other dangers, the BSA has assembled a Web site with information about online fraud and illegal schemes, and how to avoid being caught up in them. The BSA also offers the following 10 tips for a safe online shopping experience.

BSA Online Shopping Safety Tips

  1. Install security updates. Programs installed on computers and operating systems should be updated on a regular basis.

  2. Install anti-virus software and make sure it is activated. Most anti-virus software includes an automatic update feature.

  3. Install a firewall. A firewall will protect your computer(s) from unauthorized access and use by hackers.

  4. Trust your instincts. When purchasing software or other products online, if the price seems “too good to be true,” it probably is. Take special care to avoid sellers offering “back up” copies of software. This is a clear indication that the software is illegal. Also, be wary of compilations of software titles from different publishers on a single disk or CD.

  5. Do your homework. Look for a feedback section on the site and look for comments about the seller based on previous transactions. Look for a “trust mark” from a reputable organization, like BBBOnLine, to make sure the online retailer is reliable and has a proven track record of satisfying customers. If in doubt, conduct Web searches about the site in order to determine its legitimacy and check for a BBB report at www.bbb.org.

  6. Understand the “Privacy Policy.” Find and read the Web site’s privacy policies to understand what personal information is being requested as well as why and how it will be used.

  7. Ensure secure payment. Before you give your payment information, check that the Internet connections you will be using are secure.

  8. Check the vendor’s identifying information. If the vendor is unfamiliar to you, look for an online and offline customer support contact, especially when shopping for software programs on auction sites.

  9. Understand the transaction terms. Get a clear explanation of the merchant’s policies concerning returns and refunds, shipping costs, and security and privacy protection, before you complete the transaction.

  10. Recognize spam. Indicators that an email is spam include senders whose names you don’t recognize, typos and misspellings in the subject line, and prices that seem “too good to be true.”

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