On CNET news.com, the popular Internet site of CNET Inc., columnist Tim Clark has been continually skeptical about SET-not just the effectiveness of such a security standard, but the need for it. On Nov. 9 he posted a challenge to his readers, excerpted here with permission.

Visions of dollar signs are dancing in the heads of on-line retailers and e-commerce analysts, salivating at their expectations that this will be the first true Internet Christmas.

But they are banking that consumers are no longer too scared to use their credit cards on the Net, and that is no sure thing. Consider two estimates from Internet market research firms:

99% of Internet purchases are made by credit card, according to recent figures from Jupiter Communications.

40%-plus of on-line users say they are not buying on-line because of security worries, generally about the safety of putting their card numbers on-line, according to a Forrester Research study early this year of 120,000 U.S. households.

"It is absolutely a perception problem," said Forrester on-line retail analyst Kate Delhagen, who said she cannot name a single case where a consumer's credit card has been lost while traversing the Internet.

Call it the biggest Internet commerce myth ever, this widely held but nonetheless false belief that credit card numbers are swiped as they cross the Internet, then used fraudulently.

Or call my bluff. I am issuing a challenge to readers, the same one often put to me by e-commerce companies: Name one person that has happened to.

Send me verifiable details of any single case in which a credit card number was stolen in transit over the Internet. I will check it out and eat crow if I must.

Obviously, that will not prove that thefts never happen, but until someone can cite a case, it is hard to take the threat seriously.

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