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Things to watch:

__/ 02-19-2002 \__
The Critical Role of
Trust in Human

David Baltimore


Hungry minds:

How Effective are
Electronic Reputation

Gary E. Bolton
Elena Katok
Axel Ockenfels

Trust in Cyberspace
Brian P. Bailey
Laura J. Gurak
Joseph A. Konstan

Users and Trust in

Pekka Nikander
Kristiina Karvonen

Trust Among Strangers
in Internet Transactions

Paul Resnick
Richard Zeckhauser

The Essential Role
of Trusted Third
Parties in E-Commerce
Michael Froomkin

Why Some Companies
Are Trusted and Others
Are Not: A Harris Poll

Humphrey Taylor


Places to visit:

Working Group


Free Annual Credit
Report Online

National Fraud
Information Center


Previous topic:

Channel Conflict

Trust in Cyberspace
Trust is the grease in the wheels of commerce. Without it everything would grind to a halt. Fortunately, most people -- buyers and sellers -- are both trusting and trustworthy. But it is the few who spoil it for everyone else. So systems of commerce have evolved with various kinds of trust mechanisms to facilitate making transactions.

It is generally assumed that consumers look to brand names they know and trust. But there are now hundreds of thousands of commercial web sites. Setting aside the Fortune 500 and the like, most of the remaining 99.9 percent are not well-known, brand name commercial businesses. Instead they are small and medium size entities, and many more are sole Fide, sed qui, vide. (Trust but take care whom.) Latin proverbproprietors selling their wares for the first time to a global marketplace. Much of what happens in e-commerce involves transactions between strangers.

Although the legal framework for commerce is important, it is not fail safe, as many consumers know. The role of trust in commercial transactions is really much more complicated than our confidence in legal recourse. A common feeling among those who are new to the web is a lack of trust in making purchases. This is quite natural. Buyers worry about the integrity of sellers: will the product arrive as advertised, will the seller stand by the warrantee, will there be recourse if not fully satisfied, Essentially the company was built on trust. And that really harkens to a philosophy I have always had that people are basically good, and if you give people the opportunity to prove themselves good, they will. Jeff Skolland will payment information remain secure and private? Sellers must be concerned that the buyer is legitimate and the payment for goods or services rendered is drawn on a valid account.

Even so, in a very short time, millions of individuals have come together on the web to buy and sell all sorts of items, large and small, cheap and expensive. No where is this more true than at eBay, where each day countless items are auctioned off among veritable "strangers". At the core of how this is accomplished is something common to all commercial systems: trustworthy behavior is rewarded and untrustworthy behavior is penalized by the traditional process of communicating experiences from person-to-person. In e-commerce, reputation itself becomes a valuable commodity.

Reputation is formalized and amplified by trusted third-parties. Several organizations have formed to offer a "seal of approval" that will encourage trust among consumers, including TRUSTe. These are not in themselves perfect solutions. When it comes to large transactions, using an escrow service -- an independent third party which holds payment in trust until the buyer receives and accepts the item from the seller -- is another approach.

Spoofing/Phishing Spoofing is when a fraudster pretends to be someone else's email or web site. This is typically done by copying the web content of a legitimate web site to the fraudster's newly created fraudulent web site. Phishing refers to the scheme whereby the perpetrators use the spoofed web sites in an attempt to dupe the victim into divulging sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card and bank account numbers. The victim, usually via email is provided with a hyperlink that directs him/her to a fraudster's web site. This fraudulent web site’s name (URL) closely resembles the true name of the legitimate business. The victim arrives at the fraudulent web site and is convinced by the sites content that they are in fact at the company’s legitimate web site and are tricked into divulging sensitive personal information. Spoofing and phishing are done to further perpetrate other schemes, including identity theft and auction fraud.
Identity Theft Identity theft occurs when someone appropriates another's personal information without their knowledge to commit theft or fraud. Identity theft is a vehicle for perpetrating other types of fraud schemes. Typically, the victim is led to believe they are divulging sensitive personal information to a legitimate business, sometimes as a response to an email solicitation to update billing or membership information, or as an application to a fraudulent Internet job posting.
Non-delivery of Goods/Services Merchandise or services that were purchased or contracted by individuals on-line are never delivered.
Online Auction/Retail The fraud attributable to the misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale through an Internet auction site or the non-delivery of products purchased through an Internet auction site.
Credit/Debit Card Fraud

Is the unauthorized use of a credit/debit card to fraudulently obtain money or property. Credit/debit card numbers can be stolen from unsecured web sites, or can be obtained in an identity theft scheme.

Advance-Fee Fraud Schemes

The victim is required to pay significant fees in advance of receiving a substantial amount of money or merchandise. The fees are usually passed off as taxes, or processing fees, or charges for notarized documents. The victim pays these fees and receives nothing in return. Perhaps the most common example of this type of fraud occurs when a victim is expecting a large payoff for helping to move millions of dollars out of a foreign country. The victim may also believe he has won a large award in a nonexistent foreign lottery.

Freight Forwarding

The receiving and subsequent reshipping of on-line ordered merchandise to locations usually abroad. Individuals are often solicited to participate in this activity in chat rooms, or through Internet job postings. Unbeknownst to the reshipper, the merchandise has been paid for with fraudulent credit cards.

Source: FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Hear the podcast:

Podcast by Professor Michael Rappa

Audio | Transcript


Things to read:

Learning Objectives

__/ 10-25-2005 \__
Leap of Faith:
Using the Internet
Despite the Dangers

Consumer Reports

__/ 09-20-2005 \__
Most Trusted
Companies for Privacy


__/ 08-05-2004 \__
Consumer Fraud in the
United States

Keith B. Anderson

__/ 04-01-2003 \__
Economics of Trust in
the Information

Gerardo Guerra, et al.

__/ 07-24-2001 \__
Securing Trust Online:
Wisdom or Oxymoron?

Helen Nissenbaum

__/ 02-02-2005 \__
Anatomy of a
Phishing Attack

Tod Beardsley


Case study:



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