Black Friday & Cyber MondayHow to recognize fake stores on the Internet

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Christmas shopping season - at the end of the year, online retailers outdo each other with bargains and discounts. Unfortunately, scammers also take advantage of the general shopping frenzy. They lure us in with supposedly unbeatable offers to tempt us into making purchases. How can you tell the difference between a fake store and a reputable online retailer? We show you what to look out for when shopping safely online and offer a simple checklist and teaching material for young people.

Shopping online offers many advantages for customers. For example, some discounts are only available in the online store. The prices of different suppliers can be easily compared. And you can shop from the comfort of your sofa.
However, there are also disadvantages. Products cannot be inspected before purchase. The low purchase price can be offset by expensive shipping costs. And unfortunately, not only trustworthy business people operate online stores.

There is no such thing as complete security when shopping on the Internet. However, you can reduce the risk of falling for fraudsters with these tips:

Tip 1: Check discounts and compare prices

If the purchase price is significantly lower than the price in other stores, caution is advised. Fake stores can often be recognized by the fact that almost all items on offer are drastically reduced. For example, coveted branded products are also offered at particularly low prices. Also be careful if you can order products that are sold out or not available in other stores.

Tip 2: Check the imprint

If there is any doubt about the authenticity of a store, it is worth taking a closer look at the legal notice. A simple search engine query can be used to find out whether the address given exists. And also whether it is realistic that an online wholesale business, for example, is being operated from this address. Typical trick: Fraudsters simply copy the imprint of genuine online retailers. So make sure that the name of the business really matches that of the website.

Tip 3: Check contact details

Do the address, telephone number or email address actually exist as contact options? If so, it is worth making a phone call to check whether the telephone number actually works.

The Fakeshop-Finder of the consumer advice center automatically checks every store you want. Simply enter the URL and after a few seconds you will receive an initial assessment of whether it is a reputable site or whether caution is advised.

Tip 4: Critically scrutinize reviews

Good reviews can be an indication that you are dealing with a genuine and reliable store. But these reviews can also be falsified. Caution is therefore advised if reviews are all positive or very similar in wording.

Tip 5: Only use secure payment methods

It is safest to pay on account after the goods have been checked. Payment by direct debit is also considered secure, as the money can be refunded up to eight weeks after purchase. Under no circumstances should you pay in advance.

Tip 6: Pay attention to encryption

When paying online, data should always be transmitted in encrypted form. You can check this by taking a look at the address line of your browser. If the address begins with "http", be careful - the connection is insecure. If the address begins with "https", the transmission is encrypted and therefore secure.

Tip 7: Critically check the quality of the website

Incorrect texts or incomplete pages are another feature that can be used to identify fake stores. For example, if paragraphs are written one after the other in different languages. Or if texts appear to have been randomly copied together. Images that have obviously been edited or are of poor quality are also a warning sign.

Tip 8: Beware of shopping offers on social media

More and more advertising is also taking place on social networks and messengers such as WhatsApp, Instagram etc. or in shopping apps. Customers are then redirected to fraudulent websites via advertisements.

Information sheet and checklist from klicksafe

We summarize the most important tips on our information sheet. With a checklist, you can easily check whether the order page is reputable or whether caution is advised.

Teaching material on "Online rip-offs"

The klicksafe teaching unit "Young Crime - online rip-offs" deals with a case of sales fraud by a young person. In this unit, the pupils receive information about fake stores and learn about protective measures in the form of a checklist. The teaching unit also includes the video "Abzocke im Netz" from the ZDFTivi program "Young Crime". The students' decision on a possible sentence is then compared and analyzed with the assessment of the young experts and the juvenile court judge in the video.

The material was created in collaboration with ZDF and the Rhineland-Palatinate Consumer Advice Center. It is suitable for use from grade 5 onwards and takes approx. 1-2 school hours to complete.