Online-Shopping: Too good to be true?

Safe surfing

When you shop online, you never know for certain who you are dealing with. Fake online stores lure shoppers with incredible deals to their websites. Learn here how you can protect yourself against fraud when shopping online.

iBarry pushes a shopping cart full of goods.

Bargains that are anything but

There are numerous lowest price offers on the Internet. They rarely deliver on their promises: You order, you pay and then you wait for a package that, in all likelihood, will never arrive.

The scammers often use tricks and excuses to discourage you from cancelling the payment or writing a bad review, blaming the delay on delivery bottlenecks or difficulties, customs hold-ups or missing documents etc.

How to spot a fake online store

Fake online stores are hard to spot at first glance. Sometimes they are exact copies of existing websites. They almost always look legitimate and therefore rarely give rise to doubts as to their authenticity.

Here are a few signs to look out for:

1 Odd URL

Look closely at the website’s URL: does the address read or perhaps Fake websites often try to imitate the domain names of legitimate well-known companies by changing the address slightly, for example by adding characters or switching letters around.

The padlock symbol and "https" in the browser address bar are no longer fail-safe guarantees of legitimate websites. However, the absence of a padlock is a sure sign that you are not dealing with a legitimate store.

2 Dubious logos or names

The store in this real-life example looks legitimate but the logo does not match.

Also compare the URL with the logo and the name of the online store and check that they match. In addition, check that these tally with the information provided in the legal notice and the terms and conditions.


3 Extremely low prices

40% off the latest iPhone? Decidedly too good to be true!

In general, you should be cautious of extremely low prices and generous discounts on a large selection of products. A price comparison with other suppliers can help you decide.

4 Spelling and grammar mistakes

This real-life example contains several translation mistakes, which can indicate a fake website.

5 Click on seals of approval

Seals of approval offer guidance when shopping online. Organisations such as Trusted Shops, Schweizer Handelsverband and E-Commerce Europe certify legitimate online stores.

If you want to be 100% sure that you are dealing with a legitimate website, click on the seal of approval: a genuine seal will link to the certificate issued by the seal creator. The absence of a link suggests that the website could be a fake.


6 Inflated customer reviews

Positive customer reviews are not always a sign of trustworthiness. Beware of customer reviews that are exaggeratedly good with only five-star ratings.

It is often worth googling a store to check its ratings elsewhere on the web.

7 No or poorly written terms and conditions

Terms and conditions (T&Cs) are mandatory for websites offering goods, work or services. If the T&Cs are missing or poorly written, you are best off not placing an order.

8 No or poorly written legal notice

Anyone offering goods, work or services for sale on a website is legally obliged to provide at least their name, address, telephone number and, if available, a reference to their Enterprise Identification Number (UID).

If these details are missing or appear to be unreliable, this is a strong indication of fraudulent activity.

9 Strictly payment up front

You have almost completed your purchase of a new iPhone selling for an incredibly low price but at the last step of the order process you suddenly find you can only pay by prepayment or instant bank transfer. That way, fake store owners make sure you can't stop the money transfer from going through if you become aware of the scam.

If you have any doubts, insist on other forms of payment such as credit card or invoice.

Have you paid money to a fake store?

Contact your bank immediately to cancel the payment. The period of time during which you can cancel a payment will vary depending on the time of day, day of the week and your bank’s policy. For payment methods such as direct debit, payments can be reversed up to eight weeks after settlement.

Keep all records of your online purchase including the purchase agreement, order confirmation, emails and a screenshot of the offer.

From a legal point of view, we are dealing with fraud. Those affected can file a criminal complaint with the police by presenting the printed documents.

Report fake online stores to the police.

Do you think you might have come across a fake online store?

Get involved in the joint effort to fight cybercrime by reporting the fake website to your local police station or online via the National Cyber Security Centre NCSC report form.