By ART EDELSTEIN Computer Correspondent
Beware Of Net Fraud
Net fraud complaints have risen 600 percent -- and beware the online auction. Complaints about this activity lead the list of complaint topics being heard by Washington, D.C.-based, nonprofit, National Consumers League.
Almost 70 percent of the complaints fielded by the group last year involved auctions.
"Consumers need to remember that con artists are everywhere, even in cyberspace," said NCL Fraud Watch director Susan Grant.
A key piece of advice from Grant: if you buy something over the Net, don't pay by cash; use a credit card so you can dispute the charges if there is a problem.
Net Usage To Double
A British market research firm projects the number of people using the Internet will double to 300 million by 2005. In the United States, it is expected that 95 million people will be online. One factor driving the growth will be the declining cost of access to Net services, as free access providers grow and computer makers bundle service with hardware. Use of audio and video, Net telephony, video conferencing and online music listening will also boost usage.
Microsoft's Explorer Is No. 1 Browser
The most-used Web browser is Microsoft's (MSFT) Internet Explorer accounting for more than two-thirds of the browsers used on the Internet. MSIE claims 66.9 percent and Netscape's (NSCP) Navigator 31.21 percent of browsers in use.
Beware, Your Boss May Be Reading
There is a growing corporate backlash against inflammatory and potentially incriminating messages sent from business e-mails. Companies are cracking down on e-mail with measures that go well beyond merely issuing bureaucratic warnings about abuse. About 20 percent of companies were regularly peeking at e-mails last year, up from 15 percent in 1997.
Is There A Doctor On The Internet?
Twenty-nine percent of Americans have used the Internet to gather medical information about diseases or treatments for themselves or a family member. Women (33 percent) are much more likely than men (24 percent) to do so. One in four women have asked a doctor to prescribe a particular drug they have seen advertised in a newspaper or magazine or on television or radio, compared with only 14 percent of men.
Digital Music Sales Booming
Sales of CDs and tapes online increased 500 percent in 1998, from the previous year, to an estimated $200 million Online music sales equaled .5 percent of the worldwide total, but that figure will reach 8 percent within the next five years. Direct delivery of music, through downloading online, will be worth as much as 15 percent of total Internet sales by 2004.
Online Investing Outlook Bullish
Another 1.9 million households are expected to use the Internet for investment transactions and research this year. They will join 2.4 million users already online, said Forrester Research Inc. (FORR) The next wave of growth is to come almost entirely from online households with existing relationships.
Of consumers with brokerage accounts, 39 percent are online but still trade through traditional channels, the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm said. Although these consumers make fewer trades and are generally satisfied with their current means of trading, they will be drawn to the Internet by the availability of account information, planning tools, and quality advice.
This column used material first provided by Frank Barnako of CBS MarketWatch.