Online shopping Beware of online fraudsters

Greed isn’t good, it’s gaga: avaricious bargain hunters are currently falling prey to Internet fraudsters from China.

Too good to be true: Counterfeit gangs are often behind amazing online bargain offers.

“I was determined to get myself a Louis Vuitton handbag at a cheap price,” says Barbara B. (37, name altered). “So I looked on the Internet.”

Barbara B. quickly came across an online shop with an “unbeatable” offer – a Louis Vuitton bag for 180 instead of 1,800 francs. The shop looked reputable: the “.ch” address seemed to indicate a Swiss merchant.

Barbara B. lost no time in ordering the bag, and paid by credit card. After weeks of waiting in vain, her excitement began to wane. It disappeared altogether when, instead of her bag, she received a letter from the customs authorities. Suddenly everything became clear: Barbara B. had fallen victim to Chinese forgers.

Forgeries on the rise

Barbara B. isn’t the only one to have been tricked. Last year, the Swiss Directorate General of Customs seized a total of 13,604 fake brand products. That’s an increase of around 1,000 items compared with the year before. Marcel Drescher, Head of UBS Fraud Services, has also noticed that: “The problems related to trademark and brand-name protection are growing. We’re receiving lots of claims from credit card clients who have purchased counterfeit goods from China on the Internet.”

What happens when what appears to be a European online store is actually a front for clever Chinese forgers?

There are three possible scenarios: Sometimes the money is gone, but there’s otherwise no harm done. At other times the goods get delivered, but you can tell right away by looking at them that they are just a cheap copy. The third case is that experienced by Barbara B.: you receive a letter from the customs authorities explaining the situation.

The problem is not just getting your money back. If you repeatedly order forgeries – whether unwittingly or not – you may find yourself having to pay a fine imposed by the customs authorities. Finally, it’s always conceivable that the forgers will misuse your credit card data.

Don’t be tempted by cheap prices!

“When online shops are hawking brand-name goods at extremely low prices, caution should be exercised,” warns Drescher. Before buying, shoppers should check that the seller is reputable. If the price being advertised appears too good to be true, it should set alarm bells ringing.

But what if – as in Barbara B.’s case – you only realize afterwards that you’ve been duped? “Fill out the claim form immediately and report the incident in as much detail as you can,” emphasizes Drescher. “The sooner, the better.”

Although the process of disputing a transaction can be time-consuming, clients can generally expect to get their money back. However, UBS has no influence on the actions taken by the customs authorities in connection with counterfeit brand articles.

How to protect yourself against Internet fraud

  1. Avoid brand products that are being offered at a fraction of the usual retail price.
  2. Make sure you are dealing with a reputable seller before entering your credit card details.
  3. Contact your bank as quickly as possible if anything goes wrong. Use the claim form.
  4. You can find more tips at stop-piracy.ch.

Putting a stop to credit card fraudsters: UBS expert Marcel Drescher.

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