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7 Dec, 2013

European Commission: Five festive season tips to avoid on-line fraud


Brussels, 6 December 2013, European Commission Press release – 12% of internet users across the EU have already fallen victim to online fraud. 8% have had to deal with identity theft. A new report by the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net) takes a look at the scams faced by consumers when shopping online.

The report focuses on fraud in cross-border e-commerce and what consumers can do to protect themselves from online fraud. It has been prepared based on the complaints reported by consumers to ECC-Net in 2012.

The EU Commissioner for Consumer Policy, Neven Mimica said: “On-line shopping is booming as consumers take advantage of the digital single market. But the risk of fraud is rising too. The ECC report is a timely reminder to consumers that they need to ‘shop smart’ and avoid the fraudsters’ traps“.

It has been estimated that savings from online shopping amount to €11.7 billion equivalent to 0.12% of the EU’s GDP However many consumers are missing out. Studies show that 62% of consumers cite fear of fraud as the reason why they do not go online to shop1.

According to the results of the Eurobarometer on Cyber Security2, the highest figures of internet users that say they have experienced online fraud are in Poland (18%), Hungary (17%), Malta (16%) and UK (16%), while respondents in Greece (3%), Slovenia (6%) and Spain (7%) are least likely to have experienced online fraud.

The report highlights a number of tips and tricks to avoid being scammed online. For example always use a secure payment method and never transfer cash. The tips also include advice on how to screen unfamiliar online traders and what to do if you happen to fall victim to a fraudulent site.

The most common kind of fraud highlighted by the participating ECCs (70%) were scams involving fraudulent sites which require a bank transfer purchase and never deliver the products offered. The second highest type of online fraud, mentioned by 45% of participating centres, involves second hand cars sold online, followed by sale of counterfeit goods and fraudulent ticket sales. The report also analyses emerging issues in online fraud with malicious software targeting mobile phones, and scams involving gaming and online dating sites.

Five festive tips to avoid on-line fraud

1. All that glistens is not gold

Offers too good to be true often are too good to be true. Be extra-careful in checking “*” and other “small print” conditions. Verify that conditions of delivery and especially return are well explained. Pay attention to hidden subscriptions when you accept a free sample. Also watch out for fake Trustmark logos and check if the Trustmark in question really exists

2. Cash is not king: choose a secure method of payment

Never pay in advance with by any form of cash transfer: you have no way out if something goes wrong. Check whether the website offers a secure method of payment – you can see this from a little key or lock that appears at the bottom of your screen, or if the internet address begins with “https://”. Payment by credit card or a secure payment method are often the safest: companies will, under certain conditions pay you back if the purchased item or service is not delivered.

3. What do they have to hide?

The website should have the minimum information required by EU law: identity of the trader, geographical address (not a PO box number!), e-mail address, method of payment and delivery, minimum duration of the agreement for a service contract and cooling off period, during which you may change your mind and return the goods without any explanation.

4. Check the price is right

According to EU law, the price of the offer presented up front must be the final price, including VAT and other taxes as well as possible administrative fees. Delivery costs and options should be clearly explained and priced. However, if you buy from a website located outside of the EU, you may have to pay the VAT-rate of your country, customs duties and transport fees. These can add up to a nasty shock.

5. Never talk to Strangers

Ignore spam and be aware of unexpected emails. Never provide any personal or financial information if requested by e-mail and never click on suspicious links or open unknown attachments. Legitimate companies will never seek sensitive information from you in this way. On your mobile phone or tablet, only download Apps from authorised stores.