More and more people let themselves get attracted and pay thousands of EUR in advance for goods which they ordered via internet from abroad, but which they will never receive. They become victims of frauds or scams when willing to buy e.g. a car, notebook, mobile phone or a tractor for a very favourable price. The European Consumer Centre provides several pieces of advice how to easily check the particular trader from who a consumer wants to buy. It is not possible to eliminate the risk of fraud entirely, but it is possible to minimize it – with the help of cautious behaviour.
Type in the information about the company (e.g. company's name, web address or e-mail) in an internet search engine. You can find out what kind of experience other people have. If you happen to find a connection of the typed data to the words “fraud” or “scam”, be watchful.
Think about the way the trader presents themselves. Is the lay-out of the web site where you want to shop professional? E-mail addresses on free or anonymous servers like .com, hotmail.com, gmail.com, live.com, seznam.cz and so forth are not very trustworthy. Also if a web site is placed on a free hosting server, one cannot speak about a sign of professionalism.
Pay in advance only when you can say that the trader is trustworthy. Surely you would not give your money to an unknown man in the street promising you that he would send you a product in the future. However, this is what many people do on the internet. Pay in advance only when you are sure that you negotiate with a trader who is trustworthy. When paying through the Paypal system or with a payment card there are tools through which it is possible to get your money back if a trader does not deliver ordered goods. However, it is not worth to rely on them fully. Foremost, it is necessary to protect your payment card details.
Particularly, a request for payment through the Western Union is suspicious. In terms of bank transfers, do never send money to bank accounts of private persons if it is not an account of the firm/company.
Common features of frauds are: incorrect language style, request for payment in advance, additional requests for additional payments under a false pretence (customs, insurance, more packed products than ordered) and so forth. Remember that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably isn't true.
Check business register of the particular country to see if the company is registered there (you can find links to registers of the EU countries and Norway and Iceland here). Sometimes is also happens that somebody misuses a name of an existing company and establishes a web site with a similar name.
Check the web site's domain. Sometimes is happens that a web site's address is the same as an address of an existing and registered firm. Nevertheless, there is a difference – the domain, i.e. the ending of the internet address, is different (e.g. not “co.uk” for United Kingdom, but “co.cc” for Cocoa Islands). Check also the date of the domain's registration; fraudulent sites are mostly relatively new. It is usually possible to find the date of the domain's registration in a ‘whois' register (e.g. here). However, data might not be reliable. It is possible to check the so called geolocation of the web site (e.g. here you can type in the web site's name and you will find in which country the particular web site's hosting server is located).
Find the company's seat on internet server providing photographs of city streets according to address displayed in ads and on company's web site. If the supplier claims to be a supranational company, but the given address is located in the middle of a residential area in the suburbs, usually there is something wrong.
Be careful with your precious personal data. They also have got a high value. Do not provide your data at web sites that are untrustworthy or so far unknown to you. Provide only such information that is really necessary.
Do not react to any spams (junk e-mails). Do not react to any junk e-mails; no way that via e-mail you provide information about your bank account, payment card number or internet banking sign-in information. Delete the junk e-mail; do never open unknown attachments.
The above mentioned features are to be esteemed just indicia which can lead to detect a fraud. Presence of one or more mentioned features does not automatically have to mean that it is a fraud however they indicate that you should be watchful. Fraud methods continuously develop and it is not always possible to recognize them according to the mentioned basic signs.
It is generally known that people usually do not read business terms and conditions and they commit themselves to things that can surprise them in the end. Nevertheless, it takes just a couple of minutes to – in advance – check the company who I should send money to and it can help avoid many problems and save a lot of money.
If you happen to become a victim of a fraud, there is nothing left than to turn to the police. In these cases, the European Consumer Centre is not able to help consumers as frauds committed by private persons are out of its scope. Detection of offenders is very difficult in practice and therefore it is worth pay attention to prevention. If the fraud was committed from the territory of the United Kingdom, announce it also to the British authorities at www.actionfraud.police.uk.