Shopping online saves time and often money. Sometimes online shops are the only place where something can be purchased. Online shopping is convenient and essentially anonymous.
Fake merchants take advantage of this. They create a false identity or steal one from someone else and sell tickets, clothes, furniture, accommodation etc.
You do not provide them with access to your internet banking or card details as is the case with computer viruses or phishing emails. You simply end up sending them your money voluntarily.
How can I identify a fake merchant?
- When it is not clear who the operator of the online store is, i.e., who the cardholder concludes a contract with and who they can enforce their rights against. Information about how to file a complaint or claims is completely missing from the store’s website.
- They do not have their terms and conditions available on their website.
- They offer ’brand name’ products at suspiciously low prices (the goods are fake).
- They do not provide sufficient information about a product.
- Any terms and conditions only mention the supplier of the goods (e.g. a company from China), but information about this supplier cannot be verified. The website looks like it belongs to a Czech online store (particularly in the case of cheap goods, men’s/women’s shoes, handbags etc.). Although the merchant focuses on the Czech market, the business terms and conditions state something similar to the following: ‘The contract and issues related to it are governed by the laws of the People’s Republic of China’.
- They charge hidden costs/fees that are not mentioned anywhere on the website.
If you have fallen victim to this type of merchant:
- Report them to the police of the Czech Republic (even though you may think the amount in question is minor, e.g. 400 CZK, because if you multiply this number by, for example 30 victims and you get 12,000 CZK as the amount obtained by the scammer, they will continue with their scam because they have not been found out).
- Go to the nearest branch of ČS or contact our client centre on 800 207 207 to file a complaint.
Prevention is better than cure:
- Read reviews and warn other users on the internet (not just on the websites that you shop on).
- Check the merchant’s website for their terms and conditions, complaints procedure and information about their company.
- If the merchant cannot be verified, have any goods sent COD (cash on delivery).
- Check the company’s ID number on www.justice.cz or www.info.mfcr.cz/ares/ in the economic entities section, where you can verify the following information:
- whether the company exists at all,
- whether the company has filed for bankruptcy,
- whether the company is barred from doing business,
- who the owner or executive officer is, etc.
- This information can also be obtained about individual sellers who are not businesses by reading reviews. If you shop at an online marketplace, user reviews are usually published. You can also search for the merchant’s telephone number on the internet.
- Read reviews not only about sellers, but also about buyers.
- A good source of information can be found on the website of the Czech Trade Inspection authority: www.coi.cz. In the ’For consumers’ section, there is a ‘Risky e-shops’ subsection, where you can find an e-store by its web address and read the reason why it has been designated as risky.