Last month, the Contact Point of the FPS Economy in Belgium received more than a hundred reports concerning fake online sales sites.
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Scammers are taking advantage of the news and are now creating fake sales sites for wood products. Citizens who wish to use another mode of heating or are looking for inexpensive wood products, order and pay for goods that they do not receive. The FPS Economy warns consumers against this new form of scam.
Since July 1, the FPS Economy Contact Point has received at least 126 reports concerning fake online sales sites for wood products. The victims report an average loss of 750 euros, but one of them indicated having lost up to 2,972 euros.
The Economic Inspectorate of the FPS Economy analyzes the reports and may decide to launch an investigation. Scammers risk a prison sentence of one month to 5 years or a fine of 208 to 24,000 euros.
Scammers are taking advantage of the current rise in energy prices and the resulting growing demand for alternative heating methods. In addition, they are taking advantage of the international shortage of construction timber and the sharp price increases associated with it. They create websites to sell different wood products, such as wood pellets, firewood or pallets.
Scammers lure you with attractive prices which they also promote using ads, especially on social media. The shortage of wood from the usual traders and the attractiveness of these prices push you to buy quickly without first checking the reputation of the seller, for example.
After payment, nothing happens. The ordered goods are not sent, they simply do not exist. Most of the time, the scammer does not even react. If he answers, he uses pretexts, such as a delivery problem, to save time, or even to charge additional costs.
The scammers hope to make you wait so that you do not file a complaint. This gives them more time to make more victims, because the website is taken offline at a certain time.
To help you recognize reliable sales sites, the FPS Economy created the webshopsecurise.be website a few months ago . It gives you tips for buying online safely and unmasking fraudulent websites. Here are the top 5 tips.
Check the identity of the seller : who is hiding behind the sales site? Each trader is required to clearly indicate on his website the essential contact details (such as the name of the company, the physical address, the e-mail address and the company number).
Check the reputation : check the sales site on which you want to place an order (word of mouth, reviews, online reputation, etc.). This will save you unpleasant surprises later.
Beware of offers that are too attractive : beware of abnormally low prices for branded products or discounts that you cannot find anywhere else. Compare prices: check the prices displayed and compare them to the prices applied on other websites. The site offers particularly advantageous prices? This is a signal that should put you on the alert.
Pay securely : check the payment method. Some payment methods are more secure than others. Avoid international money transfers and online shopping sites that only offer bank transfer payments.
Quickly identify a fraudulent site : Beware if:
the URL does not start with httpS;
the website asks you for personal data which is not normally necessary to create an account, such as bank details, your PIN code, password or other personal data;
the website is full of spelling mistakes or unprofessional photos;
the site uses various means of pressure which prevent you from deciding calmly;