The Bavarian consumer advice center is currently reporting a large number of complaints about dubious online retailers. The Bavarian police expect criminal charges in the field of cyber fraud to increase in 2020. According to the Cybercrime Bayern central office, fraudsters are exploiting the opportunities offered by the pandemic in online shipping: they are currently offering disinfectants, protective masks and other pandemic-related items. In any case, customers should be suspicious if the seller offers prepayment as the only means of payment. First goods – then money!
Online fraud: cheap prices attract customers
Michael Müller wanted to surprise his wife for her birthday with a new mobile phone. When comparing prices on the Internet, he came across a particularly cheap provider. "At first glance, this was a reputable site, so I ordered the phone there." After he had transferred 300 euros in advance by credit card, the order confirmation came immediately. Michael Müller later received another message: the delivery was delayed. Then another email, and another, for weeks. Only the mobile phone never arrived. Today he knows that the online shop only had a website at the time, but no goods. It was a fake sales platform, a so-called fake shop.
Online boom: scammers take advantage of the pandemic
Not an isolated case. In the pandemic, more and more consumers are shopping online. More and more scammers take advantage of this. The Bavarian consumer center is currently reporting many complaints about dubious online retailers. The Bavarian police are registering more and more criminal charges in the field of cyber fraud. Adrian Panitz heads the Cybercrime Commissariat of the Lower Franconia police in Würzburg. "We are currently noticing an upward trend in online fraud." The police headquarters in Swabia South/West in Kempten also reports an increase of around 20 percent compared to the previous year.
A total of 468 online fraud cases were reported. The police headquarters in Oberpfalz and Munich also expect an increase in reported crimes in this area. Detailed, Bavaria-wide case numbers will be announced in March in the police crime statistics for 2020. One thing is already certain: online fraudsters are taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the pandemic. They are currently trying to use pandemic-related items such as protective masks and hygiene items, according to the observations of the Bavarian Police Cybercrime Central Office.
State Criminal Police Office: File a criminal complaint in the event of online fraud
Michael Müller has a different name in real life. He does not want to give his real name publicly. He's embarrassed to have been caught by an online scammer. An unnecessary false shame, says Ludwig Waldinger from the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (LKA). That could happen to anyone.
It is important that those affected file a complaint as quickly as possible. "It's not just about the money, it's also about getting hold of the criminals and making sure that these sites are taken offline again as quickly as possible." This is only possible if as many victims as possible filed a complaint. This way the police can follow clues.
According to the central cybercrime office of the Bavarian police in Bamberg, many cases can be cleared up. Because the perpetrators always leave some traces on the Internet. Michael Müller, as we call him, also filed a criminal complaint at the time. Because he paid by credit card, the bank even got the 300 euros back for his mobile phone. The scammers were also caught and convicted by the police.
As a customer, how do I recognize a fake shop?
At first glance, fake shops hardly differ from reputable sales sites, explains the Bavarian consumer advice center. Existing websites are often simply copied. The customer is often lured with particularly favorable offers. Absolute bargain prices should make you suspicious. Steer clear of online shops where prepayment is the only payment option.
It should be different: First the goods, then the money! Also pay attention to contact options: If there is only one mailbox or a fee-based service hotline, you should be suspicious. Quality seals can also be forged. It helps to distinguish: If you click on the seal of approval in reputable shops, you will be automatically forwarded to the homepage of the operator of the seal of approval. If that doesn't work, according to the LKA, that's a clear indication that you've ended up with a fake shop. So: Check first - then order.