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Over 4.4 million Germans victims of online fraud

There are easily over one million fraudulent online stores in Germany. And more than 4.4 German consumers have become victims of this online fraud. Criminals manage to steal consumers’ money mostly by setting up online popup stores.

This can be concluded after research from German consumer organization Verbraucherzentrale Brandenburg. They found out that criminals use stolen or fake personal details to open an online store that looks really professional. They have high quality product photos and item descriptions and many of these fake shops also have an imprint and contact address. It all looks trustworthy, but it isn’t.

These criminals use the banking accounts of unknowing money mules or open bank accounts with stolen identities. They then fill the online store with popular brands and items from product categories such as consumer electronics, clothing or bicycles. They sell these items for prices that are slightly below the market average. This way, many consumers in Germany will try and order those items in these fraudulent stores. And after a few weeks, the fake shop closes its doors and the founders are nowhere to be found.

‘Quality of fake shops has increased extremely’

“It’s difficult to recognize these fake shops, because the quality has increased extremely in recent years”, says police chief commissioner Fabian Herrman who works in the cybercrime team of the Offenburg police. “They are relatively professional. Previously, we used to recognize typos or something like that, but that’s not the casy anymore”, he says. “Most of them are built like a genuine online shop and contain all the information that’s obliged, such as a tax number and so on.”

Modern fake shops also use trustworthy seals of approval, such as the Trusted Shops label or a PayPal or Visa logo. And many of these online stores also have a German .de domain, which makes the store look even more trustworthy.

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