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Web seals fail to prevent online fraud

October 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
With many Web sites sporting seals of approval, one might think they ensure that a company is legitimate and your data is secure, but it's not necessarily so.Teaming up with Consumer Reports, Eyewitness News found out that some of those seals that tell you a certain Web site is safe are not to be trusted. Here is a behind-the-scenes look to see what those seals really mean.

Going online has its risks, and you may look to Web seals to ensure a site is safe.

"Companies post Web seals on their site to show that their business is on the up and up or that they protect their customer's privacy, but you can't always count on them," said Tony Giorgianni of Consumer Reports.

Take the seal from the Online Business Bureau. The company claims it is better at "protecting consumers online" than the Better Business Bureau.

"All companies have to do to get a seal from the Online Business Bureau is to pay $14.97 a month, a one-time initiation fee, and they get a green rating indicating they're a recommended business," explained Giorgianni.

Companies that don't pay, even the venerable American Red Cross, get a yellow warning telling consumers "we cannot verify this merchant's status" and "proceed with caution."

Also, just because a site has lots of seals, it doesn't mean it's necessarily a good business. Take Freedom Debt Relief, for example.

"We checked the company at the Better Business Bureau, and it had more than 200 complaints and an 'F' rating," said Giorgianni.

It turns out there's even a potential problem with the Better Business Bureau's own BBB Accredited Business Seal.

"Click on the seal, and you're supposed to get the company's BBB report, but they can be faked," said Giorgianni.

Besides checking out any Web site with the Better Business Bureau, it is also recommended that you do a Web search. Put in the company's name and words such as "complaints" and "rip-off" to see if anything comes up.


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