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The National Hotline for Internet Scams (LMIO) of the police has recently noticed a new trend in the world of online scams. Scammers are increasingly imitating existing web shops and every now and then put fake web shops online in which they misuse the names, logos and sometimes even the address details of real web shops. In this way they hope to instill confidence. Customers have lost their money and orders never get delivered.
With a little imagination you can think of this form of internet scam as a variant of spoofing. After all, by misusing existing company names and logos, scammers assume the identity of the affected webshops.
This scam has of course been around for some time, but the police have noticed a striking increase in these types of fake webshops in the past month.
In the image above this article you can see an example of such a fake webshop. This malicious forgery masquerades as the webshop of electronics chain Expert, but the domain name Expertoutlet.nl is actually from scammers. The police issued a warning for this webshop on Friday 29 July 2022: customers will not receive any orders and have lost their money.
How does this type of scam work?
Malicious trading parties set up a website that, in name and appearance, is very similar to the website of a reputable and well-known company, often large(er) web shops. They misuse the Chamber of Commerce number, VAT number and contact details of the bona fide company.
The familiar ‘look and feel’ leads some consumers to believe that they are buying a product from a legitimate party. Of course this is not the case, although you only find out when it is too late.
You can often only pay via iDEAL, and the money usually goes to a foreign account number. The scammers behind these kinds of fake webshops are probably not even in the Netherlands, even if that impression is given. If no other payment options are offered, that is reason to seriously scratch your head and consider whether it is better not to place an order altogether.
Limited offer, suspiciously low prices
What you can pay attention to are things like the prices and the variety of the offer. Some fake online stores have a wide range, but many of these fake sites usually only post a few items.
For example, are there only ten items for sale in a web shop? Then there is a very good chance that you are not dealing with a well-known, bona fide trading party, even if things such as logos, contact details and company names of existing web shops are misused.
Then the price. Such web shops often hope to take advantage of the greed of potential victims. For that reason, the – non-existent – offer is regularly provided with prices that are, in all reasonableness, really too low.
The police cite a lounge sofa with a price of 79 euros as an example, just like a Big Green Egg barbecue for 129 euros, while in reality it has a catalog value of approximately 1500 euros. Well. Of course, that can’t possibly be right, it’s simply too good to be true.
Kassa also recently warned against these kinds of fake webshops. Below are two examples. The article continues after the links below.
What else can you pay attention to?
First of all, it is wise to never just go through Facebook to buy. Buying something via links that are advertised as sponsored Facebook ads often leads to huge disappointments, especially if you unquestioningly trust that a webshop that advertises on Facebook can be trusted automatically.
Or you go into business with dropshippers and then pay way too much for worthless junk that you have to send back to China at your own expense, if you want to be eligible for a refund. But there is also a chance that you will end up at a rogue webshop and you will not receive anything at all.
Of domain name of a website does not always say something about the reliability. For example, in the examples above, Wehkamp-deals.nl in Grouponbenelux.nl. Although the names ‘Wehkamp’ and ‘Groupon’ are used, these sites are not owned by these companies.
Sometimes very small, subtle changes are made to the domain name. In case of GrouponbeneIux.nl it is theoretically possible to replace the ‘l’ from ‘lux’ with a capital ‘i’. The difference is barely noticeable. This form of ‘domain name hijacking’ is known as typosquatting.
In addition, it pays to read reviews. just newsylist ‘[url website] + experiences’ (in other words, ‘Grouponbenelux.nl experiences’) and see if you find something. On sites such as TrustPilot you will usually find a lot of information about established, existing webshops, even if customers are dissatisfied. Can’t find any reviews at all? Well, well, all webshops have to start somewhere, but then it can nevertheless indicate that you are dealing with a rogue webshop.
Also check how long a domain name is online. For domain names ending in .nl you can go to SIDN, they have a search engine for domain names. Type in the url and you will conjure up some information in no time, such as who the holder of the domain name is and when the domain name was registered. Was that very recently, and is nothing known about the owner? Then you have to pay attention.
For domain names ending in other extensions you can use the Whois Lookup from DomainTools. This actually works according to the same principle: enter the url and you will see detailed information.
And finally, use common sense and keep in mind that things that are too good to be true simply can’t be right in almost all cases.
Source: National Hotline Internet Scams