A Third of Americans Swimming with Sharks, A Third of Americans Still Unsure

Are Americans swimming with sharks when they pull out their credit cards to buy something online? It looks like that’s the case, as a new study finds at consumers in the U.S. are victims of fraud more often online than anyone else in the world.

The study by computer security vendor F-Secure surveyed consumers in not just the U.S., but also Finland, Germany, Malaysia, Poland, Sweden and the U.K., found that 32 percent of online customers in the U.S. said they had experienced an online credit card crime.

One suspect of what could be sucking in naive customers? Luxury items.

Consumers are having their credit card information swiped online because they are looking for a good deal on an expensive brand and cybersquatters are giving them that – at a price.

These bogus websites are more popular than ever, according to another study. The Brandjacking Index put together by MarkMonitor showed that counterfeit luxury sites are drawing in 120 million visitors. According to Frederick Felman, MarkMonitor Chief Marketing Officer:

“Fraudsters are savvy online marketers and are extremely effective in generating high volumes of traffic. These scammers dismiss the rules of professional conduct and have created a highly visible online ecosystem specializing in criminal behavior and fraud.”

The consumer often finds themselves on page, created by a cybersquatter, that looks like a legitimate branding landing page to either dupe them out of their credit information. If credit theft is not the goal than often the consumer is sold a faux item designed to look like the real thing usually at “savings” of 45 percent of the retail price. As MarkMonitor points out:

“While it’s debatable that the person who purchases a $100 fake handbag is an actual customer for the real item, the fact that suspicious sites promoting luxury brands generate more than 120 million visits annually indicates that actual prospects are being siphoned away from the real deal by suspected counterfeiters.”

Add these two studies up and it looks pretty grim for anyone whipping out the gold card to buy luxury shoes or an expensive handbag online. But really, the answer to these problems might be as much about common sense and computer ignorance as it is about nefarious web villains.

In the same poll that put the U.S. at the top of credit card crime online also found that a similar number – 34 percent of survey participants – said they were unsure whether their home computers contained any viruses or threats.

For me, that screams out ignorance-in-action when it comes to using a computer and the Web.

Some common sense hints that people can look for: a secure web address (https); a link from a reputable site, rather than a link from a Google search; even a reputable sounding web address – i.e., not AwesomeGucci4sale.com – for instance, makes a difference.

Knowing what’s on your computer and where it’s going, makes a difference in keeping your finances safe online. It looks like a third of folks online still have to learn that.

About Mike Koehler

Mike Koehler is the New Media Director for Schnake Turnbo Frank | PR, the largest and oldest public relations firm in Oklahoma. Mike consults with clients about the best use of tools on the Internet, Web strategy and social media policy. Mike blogs regularly at www.smirknewmedia.com and is working on his first book to be published in 2010. Mike lives in Oklahoma City with his wife and three kids.

You can find Mike on Twitter: @mkokc.

2 Responses to A Third of Americans Swimming with Sharks, A Third of Americans Still Unsure

  1. CT Moore says:

    Mind you, I'm in Canada, but I don't really worry about this kind of thing because I know my credit card company has me covered. If there's fraud, it might take 6-8 weeks for the charges to be reversed, but I know that at the end of the day, I won't be help responsible.

  2. Bee says:

    Same in most places, this is a vendor beat up that MIke has mistaken for news, what a load of baloney about the search for luxury items leading to becoming victims……..