11 December 2013
A new report by the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net) has shown that consumers increasingly encounter fraud when making cross-border purchases online. The ECC-Net set out to highlight the problems and risks faced by consumers when shopping online and to provide them with tips and practical advice on how to recognise and avoid scams.
The report, entitled “Fraud in cross-border e-commerce”, summarises problems reported by individual consumers to ECC-Net.
The report found that the most common scams reported to ECC-Net are those involving electronic items, the purchase of used cars online, counterfeit products, alleged free trials, the sale of tickets on-line and data phishing. In some situations, consumers pay significant sums of money for tickets that are never delivered, or which may not even exist. Others are enticed by cheap prices for items such as phones, only for the seller to demand further payment for delivery or customs tariffs.
Some have been caught out by notices advertising “free” trials of a product or service but which is actually a front for a costly subscription service. These situations are very well known to the European Consumer Centre in Finland who has warned consumers against free products several times during the past year. The topic is also dealt with in a joint report (published in March 2013) by the European Consumer Centres operating in the Nordic countries.
With scammers becoming ever-more inventive and their approaches more sophisticated, it is important that consumers remain vigilant and are aware of the latest threats. While new variations of scams emerge daily, often there are common threads which make fraudulent approaches easier to identify. Some of the new frontiers for online fraud include, online dating, animal rescue and those perpetrated via gaming sites and on mobile devices.
Tips & tricks to avoid being scammed
The report provides tips, checklists and table of institutions to report a scam for consumers. ECC-Net recommends consumers to:
- remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it more than likely is
- verify where the website is located
- pay with a safe payment method
- verify the information provided by the trader; look for trustmarks
- think about the way the traders present themselves
- be careful with your personal data.
ECC-Net acts as adviser
ECC-Net’s competence in the event of a fraud is limited as their role is mainly to give advice on consumer rights and assist in solving trade disputes with honest traders. In fraud cases, as the trader is usually difficult to locate and, further, as fraud is considered criminal behaviour, consumers are always advised to report the matter to police or criminal enforcement authorities. They can also try to obtain a refund from their credit card company.
Report: Fraud in cross-border e-commerce. ECC-Net 2013. The working group for the report consisted of European Consumer Centres in Lithuania, Ireland, Belgium and Slovenia.
Press release 14.3.2013: European Consumer Centres in the Nordic countries warn against ordering free products.