Money: Would you buy a used car on this website?


THE INTERNET is one of the world's greatest egalitarian forces. Small companies can compete with huge conglomerates, and individuals have the same buying power and influence regardless of their age, sex or background.

But the net's anonymity means it can also be hard to tell if the product you are buying is a dog, or if you are dealing with a rogue company. Fraud and misrepresentation are serious concerns, and financial regulators have warned investors to be cautious when they deal with unfamiliar companies online.

Consumers looking for goods or services on the net need to know that companies are who they say they are, and that they operate certain standards of security - in the way they handle credit-card transactions, for example. The problem is that there is no established way to verify this. When it comes to shopping on the high street, there are plenty of clues to prove that a company is really what it seems. On the net there's only the website, and it doesn't take much technical know-how to make a convincing copy of a web page.

So far, most fake sites have been humorous or political rather than fraudulent, but the risk is there. One way to protect companies and their customers is to use site certificates, which prove that a site is legitimate. Usually they are issued by third-party organisations with an established reputation online.

BT has a vested interest in successful electronic commerce, and its brand is trusted on the net. It has developed Site Seal so that firms using BT internet services can prove their status to consumers.

BT operates a server certification system, where it checks that its clients' websites are secure in critical areas such as storing credit-card records and encryption. BT has more than 1,000 customers with certified secure sites. At present, only a few are displaying the Site Seal logo, but BT hopes more will do so in the next few months.

BT is working with a number of financial institutions, and several big- brand retailers are set to adopt Site Seal in the run-up to Christmas. The hope is that people who are wary about buying online will be reassured by Site Seal, and that fraudsters will find it harder to make their mark on the net.


Share aware

The London Stock Exchange is promoting private share ownership with its Share Aware campaign. The Share Aware website is a valuable resource for anyone thinking about investing in the stock market for the first time. The site includes a comprehensive introduction to stocks and shares, an explanation of how stockbrokers work and where to find one, and details of Share Aware events.


Soaraway Citibank

Citibank has one of the best online banking sites for UK individuals. It targets high earners and frequent travellers; it is one of the few financial institutions to allow overseas money transfers via the internet. Citibank's current account has other useful features, such as decent interest on credit balances and low overdraft charges. Anyone who opens a Citibank current account over the net by the end of this month qualifies for a free flight to Paris or to Amsterdam.


n Stephen Pritchard can be contacted at:

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Day In a Page

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf