For better or worse, the element of anonymity is one of the big fascinations of the Internet. Unfortunately, the ease of misrepresenting one's identity, or even creating a fictional "virtual persona," goes to the core of bankers' fears about electronic commerce on the Web.

Compared to the overall bank card market, purchasing over the Internet is nascent at best. But it is growing fast. In a report published this month, New York-based market research firm Jupiter Communications estimated consumers spent $1.2 billion on-line last year, and 80% of the payments were by credit card. Jupiter projected 1997 cyberspace spending at $2.3 billion.

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