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Time to tame the Wild West of online transactions


It's important that this new world be risk-free, or as close as possible to it, when it comes to online transactions. — AFP

It's important that this new world be risk-free, or as close as possible to it, when it comes to online transactions. — AFP

All local and global statistics are pointing towards a big leap in online spending. Reports have also said banks and other financial institutions are working overtime to make transactions that take place on the Internet more and more secure.

The bad news is that criminals must be working hard as well on getting a piece of the booming business. It's a new battlefield where anyone can outwit anyone, regardless of manpower, equipment and penalties. The younger generation is using credit cards or phone applications regularly for online purchases. Even the older generation is finding it harder to avoid technological transactions, tempted by the goods they see on Web pages or the ability to transfer money to and from their accounts at the click of a button.

But this increasingly sophisticated world is a boon for those seeking to make a buck by malicious means. Unlike their shotgun-toting counterparts, online thieves can switch massive amounts of money from one account to another in the blink of an eye without risking police bullets. Four years ago, total global e-commerce sales were valued at US$1.3tril (RM5.2tril). This year could easily see that figure doubled.

Although this is still small compared to traditional sales volumes, the trend is undisputed and seemingly irreversible. The world is heading towards a revolution in the way we buy goods and services, with credit cards and other forms of online payment playing an increasingly significant role.

The positives include small-time players better chances of establishing their businesses regardless of that traditionally important – and very expensive – factor: Location. The negatives, of course, have fraud at the top of the list.

One of the most popular anti-fraud measures is the phone alert about your credit card being used. This can easily be upgraded to an all-purchase alert system covering all kinds and sizes of transactions. A totally safe use of credit cards could change the world's business. It could even revitalise the news media, which seek financial contributions from online viewers, largely to no avail. Many news consumers are old-timers who are reluctant to share credit card information online, no matter how much they're guaranteed that doing so is safe.

The same goes for other online transactions. What keeps the activities from exploding to the point of no return is the older generations' dread of giving away credit card details. When they stop being afraid, the tide of world of business might change overnight. It's important that this new world be risk-free, or as close as possible to it, when it comes to online transactions. It's largely up to the bankers and state authorities to reinforce protection and educate consumers.

The consumers can help by simply being more understanding when tough, regulatory measures are introduced. The new environment will have profound impact on highly sensitive matters like privacy and business and political ethics.

Likely among the last people to adapt will be the owners of mom and pop stores who might not quite know how to handle the new trend or simply not care that much. State policies regarding the change must have these people in mind as well.Guarding against fraud is difficult technically, but a moral dilemma looms where those unable or slow to adapt are concerned.

Measures must be swift, efficient and considerate. It's a tough ask, but we are at a point where we need those measures, since biding time could prove very costly. — The Nation/ANN

   

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