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Is it the line "I am not a crook" or "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you" that's supposed to be less believable?

How about this explanation from a pay web site, as posted at https://orders.webpower.com/iFriends/afraid.htm ? (My own comments are in italics.)

Why do you need my Credit Card or payment information if registration is free?

As a responsible e-commerce-enabled communications platform, iFriends is available only to adults aged 18 years or older who our [sic] legally subject to the iFriends terms of service and rules of the road. Because chat services like iFriends can occasionally attract user misconduct such as identity theft, ...

Do I understand this correctly? They're protecting me from identity theft by requiring me to provide credit card information? I'm not sure I understand how that's supposed to work.

... spam and other abuses, iFriends undertakes responsible measures to verify your identity, including matching your registration information against verification databases. Of course, your privacy is respected and protected at all times. iFriends never shares your personal information with any outside party, and iFriends never uses your financial information for any purpose, unless you specifically direct us to. (For example, such as directing us to use your payment information to purchase premium services available on IFN)

When I've given my credit-card information to similar sites in the past, they abused it. How do I know I can trust you?

According to Nielsen Net Ratings, iFriends is the largest and fastest-growing web-conferencing and videochat service on the internet, and is one of the top 200 internet services on the web. With seven million registered users and growing, and more than 300,000 registered video chathosts, and with participation from more than 100 different countries, iFriends is a blockbuster hit with consumers all around the world. No company online or offline could ever hope to achieve that degree of success by engaging in abusive practices or by taking advantage of its customers. At iFriends, the Customer is King. You are king.

Suppose that Nielsen Net Ratings is some bonafide third party, and that they actually confirm the statements you make about iFriends.... How am I supposed to know that you're the iFriends that they're talking abouit?

A legitimate service would avoid asking people to simply believe what they say about such matters.... that's exactly how the criminals who commit identify theft operate: they ask us to believe that they're Paypal or Citibank, but of course without providing any acceptable way to verify their identity.

Now in our ninth year on the web, we have a clean record with consumer protection agencies such as the Better Business Bureau. We are extremely proud of our record for excellence in customer service.

Incredibly, it's true. While a "clean record" with the BBB doesn't necessarily mean that all or even most customers will be satisfied with what they receive for their money, the BBB report for iFriends Network shows that it's associated with webpower. Unfortunately, the BBB report doesn't show the webpower.com domain name, and if you go to the domain name it shows, it will take quite a bit of surfing to eventually find a link back to the iFriends site.

How do I know my personal information is safe on your servers? What about hackers?

Your registration information is always safe from hackers -- all elements of the registration form (including this very message) [Ed. note: well not this message] are SSL-encrypted via Verisign digital certificates for your complete and total safety (look for the "closed lock" icon in Internet Explorer/AOL, or the "unbroken key" icon in Netscape). Now in our ninth year of operation, our encrypted and firewall-protected systems have never suffered even a single serious security breach.

At best, SSL encryption prevents theft of information in transit, and does nothing to protect that information once it's stored on their servers. The fact that they have not suffered a "serious" security breach tells us that they've managed to keep any security breaches from the media and/or the hackers just haven't tried hard enough.

I would speculate that security breaches which receive public visibility result in enhancements to security that make such sites, on average, more secure than sites which have not had such breaches.

A better response to this question would be a frank and honest statement that, although prudent measures have been taken, security cannot be absolutely guaranteed, and then provide us with links to the policies of Visa, MasterCard etc. as to the consumer's liability in such circumstances.

If I fill out the form, Am I going to get slammed with junk email from 3rd parties?

Perhaps with other internet services, but never with iFriends. iFriends never shares or sells your registration information -- including your email address -- with outside parties. Of course, if you contact any of iFriends 300,000+ video chathosts and exchange your contact information with a chathost, we can't prevent that chathost from sending you email, but that is your decision -- iFriends never makes that decision for you.

This is the weakest link.

Your biggest risk isn't from hackers, but from the "chathosts" ... who receive your email address and who are allowed to make charges to your credit card. From this statement, it would appear that iFriends has no policies or procedures against the misuse of such information.


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Revision r1.1 - 19 Sep 2004 - 16:30 by EliMantel web search for EliMantel
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