Credit card companies promote online security

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In an effort to ease consumer skepticism about shopping on the Internet, charge card companies are devising new educational promotions and partnerships just in time for the busiest shopping season of the year.

MasterCard International is pairing with Excite; Visa International with Yahoo! and American Express Co. with Yoyodyne to encourage online shopping comfort and familiarity. While charge card companies offer the same protection against fraud online and off-line--a standard $50-only deductible paid by the consumer--there is still a stigma attached to shopping online.

"The truth is people are exposed to the potential of fraud in many environments; it's just a matter of getting used to the Internet medium," said an AmEx spokeswoman. "We wanted to do something that would create awareness and promote the ease of shopping on the Internet at this busiest time of the year."

AmEx and Yoyodyne have set up a shopping Web site called EZSpree, along with a sweepstakes. More than 190 merchants on EZSpree have been approved by the charge card company because they use the best security available today, called secure socket layer or SSL.


MasterCard is adopting a similar idea by offering merchants a chance to join its Shop Smart! program. Shop Smart! allows merchants who use SSL to be approved to use a MasterCard Shop Smart! decal on their sites and in promotions.

MasterCard is also partnering with Excite to sponsor the search engine's shopping area. Excite has its own safety program inwhich it promises to pay the $50 deductible if a consumer is defrauded when shopping with one of its guaranteed merchants, which are also branded with an Excite decal.


"The role most effective for credit card companies is one of education," said Lynn Branigan, co-founder and managing partner of Multimedia Resources, Larchmont, N.Y., MasterCard's interactive agency. "If they can make people aware and feel comfortable and if they can put people at ease, that's probably as far as they can go."

Visa and Yahoo! are partners in the Visa Shopping Guide by Yahoo!. The site includes not only merchants and links, but also features product reviews, comparison shopping, and information on how to minimize fraud exposure.

All three charge card companies are working together with others to establish a new and more effective security standard called secure electronic transaction or SET.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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