Internet fraud: Tips for online shopping

Online commerce is booming but attracts scammers with fake online stores and other forms of online fraud. Lawyer Ioannis Martinis, from Helsana’s legal expenses insurance, says what to look out for.

Mr Martinis, what risks are involved in online shopping?

Fraudsters operate on the Internet and pull all sorts of tricks. Often you do not receive what has been promised and paid for. For example, the branded watch you thought you were buying turns out to be a fake, or the holiday home you rented doesn’t even exist.

Where are you seeing a rise in legal expenses insurance cases?

In addition to fictitious products and services, we are increasingly engaged in legal protection disputes for product defects, such as a sofa advertised as brand new on Ricardo which turns out to be defective once you get it home. Some providers then try to blame the defect on the transport company and push the liability on to the buyer – often successfully because customers don’t know their rights or may find the situation overwhelming.

“Some providers try to push the liability on to the buyer.”

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How can you protect yourself against fraud?

By applying the same healthy dose of scepticism to all your actions on the Internet. Is the provider credible? Google the name, the product description, the holiday home. And although it can be tough: read the terms and conditions. Helsana's legal expenses insurance team can also help customers who are unsure about something before a claim occurs.

What are my chances in a dispute without a lawyer and legal expenses insurance?

Without legal assistance, legal claims relating to international online commerce are difficult to enforce. It is harder to assert your rights, and cash flows often lack transparency. However, if you engage a lawyer without having legal expenses insurance, your costs can sometimes be higher than the amount in dispute.

Lawyer Ioannis Martinis is an expert in Internet law at Helsana Rechtsschutz AG.

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