Fake Shop Finder helps against fraud on the Internet

Fake shops are becoming more and more common on the Internet. No matter whether it’s fashion, technology or concert tickets: cybercriminals create fake but real-looking shops and offer low prices. Anyone who pays loses the money, but never sees the goods. If you want to buy from a new shop, you should check it beforehand using the fake shop finder. He knows many fraud addresses, checks details such as imprint, addresses, the age of the site and much more – and gives you an assessment of whether the site is trustworthy.

False offers deceive consumers

“Fake shops are one of the biggest ongoing consumer problems in Germany,” says Oliver Havlat. He is editor-in-chief at the North Rhine-Westphalia Consumer Center and is very familiar with the methods used by fake online shops. “We have 120,000 online shops in our database and 27,000 of them are listed as fake shops,” he says.
The fact that users repeatedly respond to the wrong offers is due to the methods of the criminal operators. Oliver Havlat knows: “Fake shops can mainly be found where goods are in short supply. The price is then usually a little cheaper than the competition.” In addition to tempting offers, the creators deceive their customers with well-made websites. At first glance, they cannot always be distinguished from those of reputable providers. “These are no longer hand-made sites that come in bad German,” explains the consumer expert. And criminals often put new sites online by the dozen using automated processes.

Help from the fake shop finder

So that users can quickly expose false offers, the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice center launched the fake shop finder in the summer of 2022. If you are not sure about a shop, simply enter its web address in the search slot on the website . The assessment comes immediately. There is a sophisticated system behind it. “The Fake Shop Finder is an artificial intelligence that actively searches for shop pages and checks them for certain criteria,” says Oliver Havlat.
Among other things, the tool checks whether the website of the respective shop has an imprint and whether it contains a sales tax ID. It is also important to know where the site is hosted, whether the domain offered matches it and whether there are any anomalies in the source code of the site. In addition, the fake shop finder uses reviews from platforms such as Trustpilot and Trusted Shops and compares the shop with fake shop lists. Using an easy-to-understand traffic light system (see below), the fake shop finder then provides information in just a few seconds as to whether the checked offer is a twisted fraudster or a reputable site operator.

The traffic light in the fake shop finder shows…

  • Red: Hands off! Because the shop has already been noticed and can be found on fake shop lists. Other users have already reported the address. The NRW consumer advice center recommends looking at the product you want in another shop.
  • Yellow: status unknown! The shop has not attracted any negative attention so far, but has at least one characteristic of a fake shop. It’s best to take another close look at the store (see below) and avoid paying in advance.
  • Green: No problems! Users can actually access it without hesitation. If you don’t know the shop yet, we recommend reading the return policy, taking a look at the terms and conditions and making sure that secure payment methods are offered.

Recognize and avoid fake shops yourself

The fake shop finder is a useful tool for exposing dubious offers before you make a purchase. If the finder does not provide any information about a shop, users can protect themselves from the cost trap and a lot of trouble with a few simple tips:
  1. Be skeptical of offers in unknown online shops. Fake shops want to make quick business of popular but scarce goods. If an unknown seller has something in stock that is sold out everywhere else, be careful. Especially if the shop charges significantly lower prices than the established competition.
  2. Check the payment methods. If the provider advertises that it accepts Mastercard, PayPal & Co., but ultimately only allows payment in advance, caution is advised. In this case, contact the shop and ask for an alternative payment method. This way you can also find out whether there is someone behind the email address you provided. If there is no payment method that includes buyer protection: stay away!
  3. Check the store’s website for any inconsistencies. Does the address match the content – ​​or is a fashion shop trying to sell computer parts here? Does the site have a valid legal notice with email address? Are the terms and conditions understandable or written in bad German? And what do the customer reviews say about the shop?
You can find more tips on fake shops from the consumer advice center at .

Millions of dollars in damage caused by fake shops

But even if the finder gives the green light, caution is advised. “A green traffic light means that we have no signs of a fake shop,” says the consumer advocate. If you don’t know the shop, you should look at the return policy and the terms and conditions. Conversely, a yellow traffic light does not have to mean that fraudsters are at work. Smaller shops in particular often don’t know that their site has to have an imprint. Here, too, it is worth taking a close look before buying (see above). This takes very little time and avoids unnecessary hassle.
The rip-offs in the shopping world earn well: “We assume that the damage caused by fake shops reaches millions every year,” says Havlat. For those affected, this means tough things in individual cases: In the end, the money is gone! You can forget about a refund. It is important to simply remain patient and wait until reputable providers carry the desired product again.

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