There is a good time and a bad time to end up in the Facebook group of Sandra Haak and her husband Volker.
It is helpful if your group »Caution!
Fake shops and scams!” before you get the idea of placing an order in a dubious online shop.
It is less good – but perhaps not quite too late – if you have already paid at a questionable dealer in the hope of the highest quality products at the lowest possible prices.
Fakeshops und Fraud!« is a community that revolves around rip-offs with online shops.
It's about dealers who don't exist at all or who only deliver junk goods - goods that have little to do with the product photos that the shops use to advertise on their website or on Facebook and Instagram.
The shops often operate from China, despite their German- or English-sounding names.
The question often arises as to how one might get one's money back after paying from junk goods suppliers.
These topics are particularly important: Friday is Black Friday, a kind of world day for online bargain hunters.
Fraudsters are also prepared for the fact that millions of people are looking for great offers online.
Because fake shops like to celebrate seasonal themes and events: the festival season, for example, Halloween, the Oktoberfest or Christmas.
"Underground" goods arrived
"Most fake shops lure with the prices," warns Sandra Haak, the administrator of the group.
»Many people who have been scammed later say, 'It was so cheap and the products looked so beautiful on the photos'.« She and her husband also fell for a fraudulent shop in 2020.
For more than 300 euros, they ordered clothing from an offer called Hurla Designn, at reasonably realistic prices.
However, the shop no longer responded to inquiries about the order.
And when the goods arrived one day, Sandra Haak knew immediately that she would not wear these clothes.
The skill was "underground," she says: "A pair of jeans should have patches sewn on.
But polyester leggings came with the motif printed on them.«
Ultimately, the Haaks were lucky in their misfortune: since they had paid via PayPal, they were able to reverse the order with buyer protection.
At the same time, however, they realized that this process has many pitfalls.
"Anyone who does not meet certain deadlines, for example, is out of buyer protection in no time at all," explains Volker Haak.
"It's also important that you accept a package, even if you already suspect that it probably contains junk." And his wife says: "You should also give reasonable reasons why you don't keep the goods, for example because something is made of plastic instead of cotton.
Simply writing ›This is a fake shop‹ is not enough.«
Sanda and Volker Haak founded the group to pass on such tips and so that users can warn each other about shops like Hurla Designn.
Another goal of the Haaks is to motivate people who have been scammed to get their money back.
"Many find that it's not worth sending them back," says Volker Haak.
This is due, for example, to the fact that shipping back to China is expensive and people then prefer to sit on their 50 or 60 euros of damage.
»But if hardly anyone makes use of the buyer protection, it is not surprising that these shops pass through PayPal as reputable dealers.
And that's exactly what the crooks gamble on: that people get angry but don't do anything else.«
Many get their money back
The anti-rip-off group now has more than 7,800 members - and a number of success stories, including members who have received hundreds of euros back.
Volker Haak has put together a guide especially for »China Fake Shop Victims«.
Sometimes, however, the group founders also have the feeling that they are fighting against windmills.
Sandra Haak, for example, is sobered by the fact that there are always people interested in alleged Amazon return pallets.
The whole thing is a network scam that has been circulating for some time: buyers are said to receive dozens of returns from the Internet giant for, for example, only 50 euros.
In the end, junk goods are delivered that do not come from Amazon at all.
Volker Haak is also constantly surprised by the naivety of some online buyers.
"Many assume that they always have a 14-day right of return on the Internet," he says, "or that all packages come with a return label." His most important tips are: "Take your time, look at the imprint, find out where the goods really come from - and what that means for the return costs.
Google the names of the shops to see if others are reporting scams.
Be aware that you won't find cashmere sweaters for less than ten euros.«
Similar advice can also be found on other portals dealing with fraudulent online shops, such as:
the "fake shop finder" of the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice center
the "fake shop list" of the Hamburg consumer advice center
Watchlist Internet's »List of Problematic Online Shops«
Sites like Trustedshops and Trustpilot are also a good place to start
Conversely, if a shop is not on a negative list, this does not mean that it is automatically reputable: many rip-off platforms keep appearing on the Internet under new names.
This makes it difficult to unmask them quickly.
So be careful with your Black Friday shopping!
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