By Trevor Clawson.

A growing majority of Britons prefer shopping online to visiting a high street store, despite a widespread belief that fraud is an inevitable risk, according to new research published by payment services provider Paysafe.

Much has been written about the impact of online shopping on traditional retailers. In recent months we’ve said goodbye to well-known names such as Toys r Us (UK) and Maplin, and in the past two weeks, House of Fraser collapsed into bankruptcy before being rescued by Sports Direct founder, Michael Ashley. According to analysts, competition from online sales has been one of the key factors putting pressure on bricks and mortar retailers.

In that regard, the Paysafe report offers little consolation. Based on a poll of more than 5,000 consumers from the UK, US, Canada and Europe, the report finds that seven out of ten British consumers prefer to spend their cash online and 68% of them buy more goods via the internet than they did a year ago.

And it seems that Britons are relaxed – perhaps remarkably so – about the risk of fraud. When asked about their own experience, a third of those questioned said they had personally experienced fraud in the last year. There was also a widespread perception of risk, with 65% saying they thought fraud was inevitable.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Awareness of the fraud risk doesn’t seem to be putting a brake on e-shopping. Aside from the growing popularity of the online channel, more than 70% of Britons were not only comfortable but actively preferred doing business with merchants who stored their credit card details. New payment methods are also gaining traction in the market, with 61% of consumers having used a digital wallet during the previous month. In-app purchases options – the sort that underpins Uber and Deliveroo – have also gained acceptance,  and had been used by 51% of the respondents.

The Shock of the New

The range of payment options has helped fuel the online commerce boom, but it can take a while to build trust in new developments. Paysafe did find a certain wariness about using ‘frictionless’ payment systems that in some way disconnected the consumer from the payment that was being made. There was particular concern about voice-activated payment systems.

Commenting on the findings, Paysafe Chief Marketing Officer Oscar Nieboer said:

“UK consumers’ attitudes towards fraud in payments are largely defined by the medium of the transaction. In the UK, we have now reached a level of maturity in online retail – most websites are optimised, the checkout process is increasingly simple and delivery is getting quicker. In turn, more consumers are telling us they are accepting a level of fraud for this convenience. What is notable, though, is the same rules do not yet apply to biometrics, such as voice-activated payments. The idea of a consumer’s unique biometric data being defrauded is uncomfortable, and this manifests as emerging technology like voice not yet attracting mainstream usage for payments.”

David Emm, the principal security researcher at cybersecurity company Kaspersky welcomes the new technologies but says consumers are right to be cautious. He cites biometrics as an example.

“The swift development of biometric technologies over the last few years has given us the capability of using our bodies for authentication, and many organisations are keen to implement solutions as soon as possible. However, consumers are right to be wary about the technology – as the stakes are much higher with stolen biometric data than a password.”

Too Relaxed?

Britons See Online Fraud As Inevitable - Are We Too Relaxed?

But are Britons too relaxed about the threat of fraud – or to put it another way, overly willing to prioritise the convenience of online shopping over personal financial safety?  For instance, According to the Survey, a much smaller percentage of Germans and Austrians – 28% and 26% respectively – accept that fraud is inevitable.

Meanwhile, a recent report by research organisation Ovum found that 58% of retailers prioritise sales over fraud prevention and 48% would accept a greater level of fraud if the trade-off was higher revenues. From the retailer perspective, there is a balance to be struck. Certain fraud prevention measures – such as identity checks – slow the checkout process down and can lead to abandoned shopping carts.

Emm cautions that fraud should not be seen – either by retailers or consumers – as acceptable.

“Many of us now routinely bank, shop and socialise online. This makes life more convenient, but ultimately this shouldn’t come as a trade-off that means not having the right security solutions in place, nor should consumers feel that fraud is an inevitable aspect of online transactions,” he says.

And he believes that retailers could be doing more.

Last year, the value of fraud committed in the UK topped £1bn for the first time since 2011, and as cybercrime and large-scale scams continue to increase, it’s even more likely that people will fall victim to online fraud which makes the need for protection even greater,” he says.  “Major retailers continue to see e-commerce sales on the rise, but not all retailers have raised the bar when it comes to security, although more companies are encrypting data, they are not doing it at the levels needed to reduce the magnitude of these attacks.”

Equally, Emm says consumers should protect themselves.

“Every online transaction opens a window of opportunity for cybercriminals, but an individual can reduce their exposure to fraud simply by installing Internet security software, applying updates to their operating system and applications and by using a password manager to create unique complex passwords for online accounts.”

Physical security is also important. As a spokesperson for online credit checking agency Equifax advises, criminals are keen to steal that data that could allow them to assume the identity of a consumer and carry out transactions under his or her name. Equifax recommends that consumers avoid carrying sensitive documents that could be stolen while also protecting cards by leaving the plastic you don’t need at home when out shopping.

Cybercriminals are skilled and determined and the truth is that some level of fraud probably is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean consumer can’t take steps to reduce their personal risk.