It's a little Catch-22 of Web sales. Some business owners have recently found that putting encryption technology on their sites actually drives sales down. They suspect buyers are spooked by the intimidating "security document" boxes that pop up in many browsers. Charles McCormack of Web security firm ActiveWeb Solutions Inc. suggests another cause: Old browsers can't handle encryption, so shoppers who aren't using the latest technology get an "error" message. Also, those surfing from work may hit firewalls. There's no quick fix, but giving buyers options and explanations may help. suggests users who get an error message use its standard server or complete their orders by telephone. Consumer fears may fade as Net use grows. After all, sending a credit-card number into cyberspace isn't much riskier than giving it to a waiter or telemarketer.

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