Online retail can lead to tax fraud
Online retail can lead to tax fraud
(The Philippine Star) - April 2, 2013 - 12:00am

Advanced information technology and the Internet have made life very convenient in so many ways, enabling people to conduct bank transactions, pay their bills and shop without having to leave the comfort and convenience of their homes. Over the years, more and more businesses have learned to use technology in generating more sales and increasing their market share, with advertising agencies using online and digital media to target customers, utilizing social networking sites like Facebook where, more often than not, people are enticed with hefty discounts and great sounding promos for products and services just for “liking” an ad.

However, there are still a large number of people who are not sold to the idea of online transactions because of the privacy risks involved because one is normally required to disclose personal and other sensitive information to complete an online purchase or transaction. An interesting article in the New York Times featured a study by a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University that disclosed how people – despite saying they value their privacy – often behave in an inconsistent manner and let their guard down in the face of tempting deals or purchases.

According to Alessandro Acquisti’s research, people don’t always act in their own best interest and can often be manipulated easily by how companies pump people for information. And more often than not, his study suggests, the more innocuous-looking sites can actually sway people into revealing more of their personal data than official looking ones. For instance, the New York Times article illustrates, a person who comes across a discount online retailer promising a very attractive deal starts by setting up an account, providing his email address and disclosing his birth date, age, gender. He then agrees to the company terms of service (more often than not without bothering to read all the minute details) in a distracted manner, not paying close attention to what he is doing.

That these transactions involve trade-offs are clear, Acquisti avers, with online customers giving up data to avail of the offer. But just who gains – or loses – more in such transactions is the big question – with the rewards (discounted items) sometimes not commensurate with the (intangible) risks like possible identity theft. In fact, a report by NBC News revealed that identity theft is indeed on the rise, with people’s social security numbers stolen for the purpose of filing fake income tax returns with the US Internal Revenue Service. An account by a victim disclosed how a thief stole her personal details including her Social Security Number and filed a fake income tax return online – and managed to receive the $5,700 tax refund from the IRS.

With the deadline for filing tax returns just around the corner, the IRS is working double time to counter the growing problem of identity-related tax fraud, expanding its assistance program coast-to-coast and in all 50 states to work with state and local law enforcement authorities to crackdown on crooks who reportedly make more money just sitting in front of their computers than selling cocaine on the streets.

Are manners dead?

That is a pervading question in light of the “snarky rudeness” that young people are displaying online, says a New York Times article, adding that cellphones, Twitter and Facebook may be killing off manners and etiquette the way baby boomers and even generation X members know them.  That’s probably why a new generation of etiquette gurus is emerging, making use of social networking sites and the YouTube to make good old-fashioned social graces relevant to today’s generation. These bloggers and manner arbiters are teaching Generation Y protocol on seemingly simple matters like shaking hands, how to conduct oneself at the gym, how to properly order at a drive-in window, or proper behavior at same-sex weddings.

One of the popular “how tos” has to do with “netiquette,” specifically on what is appropriate to post on Facebook, etc. Should one discuss personal health or ask for a loan in public, are just some of the topics that manners gurus offer to people who are “not to the manner born,” so to speak. That etiquette has become a growing concern once again can be gleaned from the number of books that have been published on the topic, including one by Daniel Post Senning, the great-great grandson of the doyen of etiquette Emily Post titled “Emily Post’s Manners in a Digital World: Living Well Online.” For many decades, the books and columns of Emily Post (born Emily Price) have been considered the ultimate guide when it comes to manners and etiquette, and it’s certainly fitting that her legacy is being kept alive to this very day.

Early Easter gift from Macy’s

A simple typo error in a product catalog mailed all over the US has enormously cost popular department store chain Macy’s. In a 44-page advertisement sent to customers, Macy’s promised a “Super Buy,” and indeed, that’s what shoppers got when a 14-karat gold necklace priced at $1,500 was advertised with a discounted retail price of just $47. Not surprisingly, the inventory quickly got sold out by Friday – before the store finally got wind of the pricing error and started alerting customers about the mistake.

Apparently, the price should have been $479 dollars but someone missed out on that all-important digit – enabling customers to save up P1,400 while the department store chain had to put up with a loss of $450 for every necklace bought. The store, however, continues to be mum as to who was responsible for the typo error, or how many pieces of jewelry were sold before they were alerted of the costly error. In any case, customers were certainly happy with the “early Easter gift” from the store.

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Email: spybits08@yahoo.com

ALESSANDRO ACQUISTI CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY DANIEL POST SENNING DIGITAL WORLD EARLY EASTER EMILY POST MACY NEW YORK TIMES ONLINE PEOPLE
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