Security firm VeriSign has launched a new site to help educate users about how to shop safely online, as more and more people flock to web stores to grab a bargain this Christmas.
Recent research by YouGov for VeriSign indicated that the credit crunch will prompt 71 per cent of Britons to shop online for seasonal bargains this year. This is backed up by the latest report from Capgemini and IMRG, which predicts that UK surfers will spend nearly £14bn online this quarter.
However, there is still some trepidation among users, as over a quarter of respondents (28 per cent) said that ID theft, fraud and a lack of trust are the biggest factors holding them back from buying online.
"People have expressed an intention to do more of their shopping online than they did last year for the specific reason that they believe they can get more for their money," said Tim Callan, vice president of marketing for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) at VeriSign.
Another consideration, according to Callan, is the cost of fuel and the desire to shop around without having to waste time and money in the car driving from place to place.
"We now have a bunch of people who are saying they need to go online who would normally go down to the high street, and merchants have an opportunity here," he said.
"There is a channel shift going on, but this shift brings different demands and priorities from the customers.
"On the whole online shopping is a secure activity, but customers don't understand this and need to be shown. They don't read minds; it needs to be demonstrated to them."
For its part, VeriSign has developed the Extended Validation SSL certificate, which adds a green address bar and the name of the site to all current-generation web browsers. It is designed to verify the identity of the operator of a web site, and was created in direct response to rising internet fraud and declining consumer confidence in online transactions.
Callan hopes that VeriSign's own education drive, combined with those of online stores and other institutions such as banks, will help increase awareness about the dangers and safety indicators of online shopping.
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