One-fifth of Web shoppers have personally experienced fraud and nearly half would spend more if security were tightened, but few are willing to pay extra for software and other devices to get that added safety.
Those were the chief conclusions from a survey by Star Systems Inc. The 20% figure was a surprise to researchers - and "high, because there haven't been any numbers out there that give us how many have been affected by fraud," said Barbara Span, the vice president of public relations at Star Systems. The Memphis payments network company questioned 885 consumers, 90% of whom had made online purchases before. Earlier estimates "have just been anecdotal," Ms. Span said.
Star Stystems, a subsidiary of the transaction processor Concord EFS Inc., did not ask what category of fraud the customers had experienced - whether their credit card numbers were stolen, for example, or they never received merchandise they had paid for.
Most questions instead dealt with perceptions of transaction security.
A good 85% said they were "very concerned" about the safety of financial information - their credit card and account numbers - when making an online purchase or transaction. Seventy-seven percent said they were very concerned about their personal data - Social Security numbers, or e-mail and home addresses.
Seventeen percent said they believe cardholders are primarily responsible for fraudulent credit card purchases made on the Internet. The same amount said retailers are; 16% said credit card companies; and 34% said a combination of these.
"There is clearly a lot of consumer confusion on fraud liability," Ms. Span said. "This survey suggests that there needs to be more education."
But 38% of the people who said cardholders are at least partly responsible for fraud also said they are unwilling to pay for added security in the form of devices or software. Nearly half of the survey audience as a whole showed an interest in using new security technologies, if not in shelling out for them.
On average, the survey participants said the most they would spend on a single online transaction or purchase in the next year was $425. That rose 35%, to $577, when they were asked how much they would pay with the benefit of enhanced security features.
Consumers are reluctant to spend a lot of money on devices or software to make their transactions safer, Star Systems said in the report. The survey also found that though Internet users are concerned about security, convenience is more important to them.
"The responsibility is on payment companies, retailers, and financial institutions" to provide safer and more convenient payment methods, Ms. Span said. "Online retailers have a great opportunity for more consumer purchases and increased purchase amounts if consumers feel more secure," she said.
The survey summary also described some types of enhanced security technology and asked customers which they considered the safest and most convenient. Half said they thought a digital signature would be the most convenient, and 52% said they thought it would be the most secure. Forty-one percent thought the use of a regular ATM/debit card and point of sale card swipe device attached to a computer would be convenient, and 53% said they believed it would be safe.
But only 37% and 35%, respectively, said they were likely to use either method.
These technologies are being tested by a variety of companies, and some are in full use, Ms. Span said. "We thought it was important to utilize models that may be a reality for consumers some time in the future."
Nacha, the electronic payments association, recently completed a pilot test of digital signatures that showed consumers can use their ATM or debit cards on the Internet with transaction authentication and security comparable to that of point of sale purchases using personal identification numbers.
"Within the industry there are multiple solutions being developed," Ms. Span said. "The question for all of us is which of these solutions will be the one that will be accepted by retailers and financial institutions as a payment method and be secure yet simple enough to achieve consumer acceptance."