Few developments have altered America's lifestyle more quickly and more completely than the Internet. Online access has enabled people from all walks of life to bring entire libraries, entertainment venues, post offices and financial centers to a workplace, to a desktop or to a shirt pocket. The Internet's largest and most meaningful impact may very well be on the way consumers shop for everything from gifts, gadgets and groceries to clothing, cars, and cruises.
The ease and selection that the Internet provides to shoppers has changed the face of retailing. More and more, consumers visit a store's Web site to make their choices before traveling to the store itself; and in a rapidly swelling tide, many shoppers are bypassing the store altogether and ordering online directly from the Web sites of their favorite brands and outlets. Companies like Sephora, Sears and Crate & Barrel have increased the range and quantity of products available at their online stores and are sending online coupons and sale announcements via e-mail directly to their customers.
[...] An identity theft victim should contact a number of organizations that have an impact on credit ratings and security, including creditors and lien holders. The Federal Trade Commission offers an Affidavit of Identity Theft that can be notarized and then sent to creditors and agencies. Early contact should be made with the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax www.equifax.com Report fraud: 1-800-525-6285 Order a credit report: 1-800-685-1111 P.O. Box 740241 Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Experian www.experian.com Report fraud: 1-888-397-3742 Order a credit report: 1-888-397-3742 P.O. [...]
[...] or in a store; and fraud can be avoided if consumers understand a few simple steps they should take when they enter the online marketplace. Americans' concerns about safe shopping Increasingly, American consumers are expecting merchants from major department stores to individuals who sell handcrafted jewelry to electronics and cars to make their products easily available on the Web. They're also expecting these online retailers to make payments a simple and secure process. While consumers have confidence in online stores, recent research suggests their confidence levels in the security of the actual purchases from these stores, especially from lesser-known or unknown sellers, lag behind their desire to engage in shopping over the Internet. [...]
[...] Deterring identity theft Identity theft is a crime that affects consumers at home, at work, in the shopping mall or online. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines identity theft as the stealing of personal information to illegally obtain credit or medical care or to hide from the law. Contrary to popular belief, identity theft is not simply an Internet problem. Research shows that a large amount of identity theft actually occurs in the offline world when a thief obtains an individual's personal financial information through the mail or their discarded trash. [...]
[...] Stolen credit card purchases ring up to $3,500 Roz Cohen a New Jersey- based freelance writer considers herself to be a savvy Internet user and knowledgeable about privacy rules. She never gives out personal information over the phone and even once refused to give out her Social Security number to a doctor, finally allowing its use when the insurance company wouldn't pay her bill. She had no idea there was a problem until a retailer called asking if she had purchased a pair of expensive boots she had never heard of. [...]
[...] Identity thieves send massive numbers of e-mails to Internet users that ask them to update the account information for their banks, credit cards or online payment service or popular shopping sites. The e-mail may assert that the recipient's account information has expired, been compromised or lost and that the account holder needs to immediately resend it to the company. Sometimes this fraudulent e-mail appears to have been sent from the domain of a legitimate bank, insurance agency, retailer or credit card company. [...]
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