Sweetheart Deals for ID Thieves

If you plan to buy flowers, chocolate, or jewelry online this Valentineís Day, be sure you know how your favorite online stores use and protect your . Not knowing can be risky: The same PII you hand over to buy a bouquet or necklace could, if itís not adequately protected, be used by a crook to commit fraud or identity theft. Read this report before you give your credit card number to another website. Itíll help you avoid the heartbreak (and the headache) that comes from a ruined credit rating by showing you what to look for in a privacy policy.

From December 2007 to January 2008, NYPIRG reviewed the privacy policies of 243 highly-trafficked flower, chocolate and jewelry sellerís websites to discover2:

  • How well they informed customers about the use of their PII.
  • How much control they granted customers over the use of their PII.

Informing Consumers

Consumers can't protect their PII if they don't know how it's being used or who is in possession of it. Effective, consumer-friendly privacy policies are easy to locate and offer a wealth of information. They leave readers well-aware of how their information will be treated and shared and where to get questions answered. NYPIRG found a number of online privacy policies with such steel-door features. Unfortunately, we also found Web sites offering weak consumer protection.

Screen Door Awards for Leaving Customers Uninformed

Just as it wouldn’t make sense to trust a screen door to protect household valuables, it would also be a mistake to trust a credit card number or other valuable PII to a company with flimsy privacy practices or an inadequate privacy policy.


Steel Door Awards for Informing Consumers

Banks keep their assets locked behind steel doors. Effective privacy policies offer similar protection by limiting exposure to ID thieves and empowering consumers with privacy concerns to shop around.


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  1. Online sales of flowers and greeting cards jumped 98% in the week before Valentineís Day last year.1 ComScore, Press Release, Online Sales of Flowers and Greeting Cards Jump 98 Percent in the Week Before Valentineís Day; Jewelry & Watches Also Experience E-Commerce Sales Gains, February 14, 2007.
  2. All websites surveyed were listed by Googleís Shopping Pages as highly-trafficked sites for purchasing flowers, jewelry or chocolates.