Why Trust Seals Don’t Work: A Study of User Perceptions and Behavior

  • Iacovos Kirlappos
  • M. Angela Sasse
  • Nigel Harvey
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 7344)


Trust seals, such as the VeriSign and TRUSTe logos, are widely used to indicate a website is reputable. But how much protection do they offer to online shoppers? We conducted a study in which 60 experienced online shoppers rated 6 websites – with and without trust seals - based on how trustworthy they perceived them to be. Eye tracking data reveals that 38% of participants failed to notice any of the trust seals present. When seals were noticed, the ratings assigned to each website were significantly higher than for the same website without a seal, but qualitative analysis of the interview data revealed significant misconceptions of their meaning (e.g. “presence of seals automatically legitimizes any website”). Participants tended to rely on self-developed – but inaccurate – heuristics for assessing trustworthiness (e.g. perceived investment in website development, or references to other recognizable entities). We conclude that trust seals currently do not offer effective protection against scam websites; and suggest that other mechanisms – such as automatic verification of authenticity are required to support consumers’ trust decisions.


trust signaling e-commerce trust seals 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iacovos Kirlappos
    • 1
  • M. Angela Sasse
    • 1
  • Nigel Harvey
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity College LondonLondonUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity College LondonLondonUnited Kingdom

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