Netherlands – The police are receiving more and more reports and reports about fraudulent online stores. Purchase fraud has now become the most common form of online fraud. In the near future, scammers will again take full advantage of the holidays and the hustle and bustle surrounding gift purchases. “From November to January we always see a significant increase in the number of reports,” says Gijs van der Linden of the police’s National Internet Fraud Hotline (LMIO).
“Since corona, we have seen a shift in the way online purchasing fraud is committed,” says the LMIO coordinator. ‘At first it mainly concerned online trading places such as marktplaats.nl. We are now increasingly seeing citizens being scammed through online stores.’
‘Ordered TV for €425, never arrived. Website and telephone number are down. I have filed a tax return, but if I make 3 tax returns, the IBAN will be blocked. So please report it!!!’ *
According to recent figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS), purchase fraud is the most common form of online fraud. In 2022, about six percent of all ordered and paid for products or services were never delivered. According to Statistics Netherlands, 30 percent of the cases involved undelivered clothing, sporting goods, shoes or (clothing) accessories. 14 percent involved electronics or household equipment. Computers, tablets, mobile phones or associated accessories were also often ordered but not received; in 9 percent of the crimes.
‘This company is a scam site. Bought camera for 135 euros. Goodbye money.’*
“Every year there are forty to fifty thousand reports of purchase and sales fraud,” says Van der Linden. “And we suspect this is only a third of the actual total. Often the amounts involved are small, so people do not file a tax return. If you look at digitized crime, this is really the bulk.’
Every year, the LMIO sees a significant increase in the number of reports of online store fraud, especially around the ‘holiday months’. According to Van der Linden, it is striking that online scammers are increasingly using foreign bank accounts and foreign payment service providers (PSPs). ‘This may have to do with the fact that police teams across the country have dealt with more online store fraud cases. To this end, we work closely with banks and PSPs in the Netherlands. In the event of a third report about a specific account number, the bank is informed and we can cut off the fraudsters. That is why it is really necessary to file a report. We are now also working hard to share such information with PSPs abroad.’
‘Last Saturday I also ordered a coffee machine for €300. I tried to call them on Monday, no response nor email. Definitely ripped off!!’ *
Do your research
In the meantime, as a consumer you still have to pay attention to what you do. Van der Linden: ‘During the holidays, people are often in a hurry to buy gifts. This makes them more vulnerable to scams. Every year we see 8,000 reports alone from people who have been harmed via Instagram. For example, that sneaker that comes along for that slightly too good price. But then you’re sitting at home and something like this flashes by and you press that Instagram link too quickly, without first checking or wondering: what kind of website is this? Do others have experience with this? And then it happened like this! Here too, the message is: if you are not familiar with an online store, take some time to check its reliability before ordering something. Consult reviews and look out for the warning signs mentioned.
How do you recognize a rogue online store?
- Too good offers. Be suspicious if an offer seems too good to be true. Malicious online stores often lure customers with extremely low prices to make quick money.
- Insecure payment methods. Always check payment methods. Avoid online stores that ask for payments through unusual channels – for example via iDeal to a foreign bank.
- Also look carefully at the general matters on the website. If contact details or company details are missing, such as the Chamber of Commerce number, address or telephone number, this is a red signal. Although fraudsters are becoming increasingly cunning these days and such information is increasingly available. Right down to employees who answer phone calls…
- Lack of secure connection. Notice the ‘https://’ in the web address bar and the lock icon. This indicates that the connection is secure. If this security is missing, do not shop on the website.
- Check the reviews. But watch out! For example, if a website states that it has over a thousand responses on Trustpilot, with an average rating of 4 ½ stars, this does not necessarily have to be true. If you look at the real page of Trustpilot or another review website, something often turns out to be completely different. For example, only very negative reactions about the non-delivery of goods.
- If there are multiple reports about an online store, this is indicated
(*The quotes from victims come from Trustpilot and are about a fraudulent online store that has now been taken down.)
Information source: Politie.nl