Hello again, Im Michael Barrett, the chief information security officer for PayPal. Ive said before that there is no silver bullet to stop online fraud ? rather, its a combination of efforts by private industry, the government, and consumers. So, we asked ourselves: how strong is the consumer link in the chain? We worked with a research company called Ipsos to conduct a survey of online consumers in six countries around the world, to try to figure out what they actually think and do when it comes to protecting themselves online.
Our survey shows that ID theft is about twice as likely in Canada, the UK and the U.S. than in France, Germany and Spain. And folks in these English-speaking countries are also more likely to know somebody who has been a victim of ID theft. This isnt surprising, considering the high concentration of e-commerce in these markets; but consumers in other countries shouldnt interpret this to mean that theyre intrinsically safer. As e-commerce becomes more popular around the world, fraudsters will follow the money.
One of the most important things that consumers can do to protect themselves online is to practice good password hygiene. That is, choose a good password, update it regularly, and dont share it with others. Unfortunately, our survey showed that consumers across the board are generally lax when it comes to protecting their passwords. Almost half of consumers in all countries surveyed use important dates, family member names, nicknames or pets names as their online passwords. Consumers in Germany fare better than others, though. Only about one in four (28 percent) has ever shared an account password with a family member or friend. This compares with 60 percent of Americans and 56 percent of French consumers who shared passwords.
You can find more information about password safety, along with other tips from PayPal, at a new Web site we developed dedicated to online safety. The site is designed as an online agent game, where you can design your own avatar, participate in simulation training, and take a trivia quiz to test your security knowledge. Theres also a safety calculator, where you can answer a series of questions to find out how safe ? or how exposed ? your ID may be online. Take a look and let us know what you think.
Ill be back again to talk about other safety-related topics. In the meantime, here are some general tips that you can follow as youre shopping online this holiday season. Stay safe out there!
- Use safer passwords: Use a combination of upper and lowercase letters and numbers, and change passwords every 30 days.
- Protect your computer: Use anti-virus software and an updated Internet browser that blocks fraudulent Web sites.
- Never click on links in e-mails: Even if the e-mail appears to be from your bank, the IRS or popular sites like PayPal, do not click on links to pages that ask you to share sensitive personal or financial information.
- Use common sense: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.