Amazon, eBay, Microsoft Ally To Fight ID Theft

EBay, Amazon.com and Microsoft are among a group of companies that will work together to fight online identity theft, which some say could hold back e-commerce growth. The coalition is being shepherded into existence by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA).

ITAA president Harris N. Miller told the E-Commerce Times that the group of companies will strive to educate the public about risks of identity theft. Consumer education not only is the best protection against this crime, he said, but also will help calm fears harbored by some would-be online shoppers.

“The fact is that it is largely safe and secure to shop online, but we want to make [consumers] feel completely confident when they come onto the Internet to shop,” Miller said. “Most identity theft still comes from offline sources.”

Indeed, although statistics show the vast majority of ID theft stems from carelessly discarded personal papers, recent e-mail frauds prompted the ITAA to act, Miller added.

“The solution is a shared responsibility among industry, government and consumers,” he said.

Base of Support

The inclusion of eBay and Amazon, the two largest stand-alone e-commerce players, highlights the seriousness of the effort, Miller said. Other companies and organizations supporting the coalition out of the gate include the Business Software Alliance, McAfee Security, RSA Security, TechNet, VeriSign and Visa U.S.A.

In addition to a public education push, the effort will include work on technology, geared toward both consumers and online merchants, to curb identity theft.

The companies also will swap information about emerging fraud cases online and will work with law enforcement and government agencies to ensure necessary laws are in place and enforced to the fullest extent necessary.

Government Cooperation

Specifically, Miller said the coalition will seek to work closely with two U.S. federal agencies: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice.

Earlier this year, the FTC reported that complaints about identity theft rose 88 percent in 2002 to more than 160,000 cases. While the agency did not provide a breakdown detailing which cases stemmed from online activity, consumers have become more aware of the risks of sharing personal information online, particularly in light of recent database breaches that exposed personal data.

Past studies have suggested that even slight exposure to online fraud would be enough to make consumers less likely to shop online. A Gartner study found that 58 percent of people said losing as little as US$25 to online fraud of any kind would deter them from wading back into the e-commerce waters.

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