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Online is a popular way to shop, since it makes things so convenient. But scammers take advantage of this allure to draw consumers into their sticky webs, with scams such as fake shops. We’ll teach you how to recognise their tricks – so you won’t fall for them yourself.

Marco K. can’t believe his eyes: Brand-name trainers in his size, the right colour – and at a bargain to boot! With a single click, they land in his basket. He's quick about it, careful not to let anybody else snap them up before him.

Now all he has to do is pay. Of course, it has to be paid for in advance, and he doesn’t hesitate. He waits excitedly for the delivery date, which is in just a few days’ time. But it comes and goes, and still there's no sign of them. Marco K. is unable to find anything about customer service or a telephone number on the online retailer’s website, and nobody answers his e-mails. Slowly it dawns on him: He’s been ripped off.

 

Shopping smart online

Online is a popular way to shop. We in Switzerland love to shop online, with our figure for online shopping well above the European average. According to a study conducted by the Federal Statistical Office in 2017, 72% of people in Switzerland aged between 16 and 74 made a purchase online at least once in the three months leading up to the survey. Only the UK exceeded this number, at 78%.

 

Online shopping’s high level of acceptance provides an excellent target for scammers, however. That's why, whether you’re ordering purchases or even booking your holidays online, you should always use common sense – especially if the deals look too good to be true.

 

Fake shops draw you in with the best deals

Scammers often operate through fake shops, which are operated by criminals using a falsified or stolen identity.

 

They draw you in and encourage you to buy with the best deals and discounts. More often than not, however, you’ll end up with lower-quality goods, fake "branded" products, or sometimes even nothing at all. If you've paid in advance, you won’t usually be able to get your money back either.

 

Minimise your risk of online scams at the checkout page

Legitimate retailers offer a wide range of payment methods. The most secure method would be to order goods on account. In this way, you can check the quality of the item once you receive it.

 

If you use a credit card, you have the option to cancel payments in case of any problems. Get in touch with your bank and ask them about their claim regulations. Generally you’ll have a couple of weeks from the date of invoice in which you can cancel payments.

 

PayPal does not offer general buyer protection

Digital payment service PayPal offers buyer protection. This includes reimbursement of the purchase price for undelivered or faulty goods. However: This protection only applies to the service's regular payment function. If you use the "Send money to a friend" option offered by PayPal for your online purchases, you will not be protected.

 

Don’t be drawn away from legitimate shopping portals

An old trick used by scammers is to draw you away from the official ordering process with established retailers such as Amazon or hotel booking portals.

 

First, they’ll set up a fake shop on Amazon Marketplace, for example, or they’ll offer a holiday apartment that doesn’t actually exist. Then, they’ll promise you a great discount in exchange for not paying through the legitimate provider’s check-out page. If you allow this to happen, you’ll be foregoing the protection guaranteed by legitimate websites.

 

Report any cases of scamming to the police

Marco K. reported his case to the police. It is unlikely for most victims that they will be able to get their money back, but reporting what has happened is still a sensible idea since this information can be used by law enforcement authorities to identify and shut down fake shops.

 

Marco K. was able to do his bit to help by subsequently taking a few screenshots of the fake shop. Any chat logs or e-mail correspondence with the scammers are also helpful. In this way, new scam tactics can be quickly brought to light, making it possible to come up with preventive measures.

 

Download the online shopping checklist and you’ll have all the information you need to shop smart online at a glance.

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