How Trustworthy is a Trustmark?

Using credit card onlineWhen people shop online they should be checking the websites they visit for signs that they are trustworthy. A few years ago Econsultancy reported that a Cybersource survey found that 85% of UK online shoppers look for signs that the website they are considering buying from is secure.

When visiting a website shoppers can check the contact page to see how easy is it to contact a company, they can look for return information to see how to return a faulty or unwanted item, and they can check there is a privacy policy displayed on the site.

They should also look for the padlock symbol that is usually displayed beside the URL and they can check the URL contains ‘https’, showing that data transmitted from the site is secure. They can also see if the site has any trustmarks. These are logos that many ecommerce web shops place on their sites to show that they have passed security and privacy tests to reassure customers that it is safe to enter Paypal or credit card information and that their privacy will be respected. But can all trustmarks be trusted?

Just because a site has a trustmark logo, or what appears to be an “active” trustmark seal that can be verified by clicking on it doesn’t necessarily mean the site has undergone any tests or that the seal(s) they are displaying were issued to them. You can display trustmarks on sites simply by going to one of the many companies selling them and downloading an image or JavaScript code to put on your site. For example Verisign, GeoTrust and Trustwave allow you to download images and/or scripts to show trustmarks on your website.

Recently a plugin called Trust Mogul has become available that allows site owners to generate their own trustmarks. The site doesn’t have to undergo or pass any tests to generate and display the seals, they simply have to install a plugin and activate it! Clearly there is potential for abuse here and websites that use these methods to “generate” trust may not be as trustworthy as they first appear!

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