Chapters of the article
How to deal with such scammers?
If possible, do business with vetted traders. Who are they? For example, they have all their contact details listed (not just a p.o.box), terms and conditions published on their website and positive references can be found on the internet. In addition, if they are easy-to-remember names (typically the names of big retailers such as Alza, Ikea, Luxor), the recipient will also find it easier to find their way around when receiving the parcel. Before buying, it is advisable to check whether the retailer can be found on the internet with trustworthy positive references. At the same time, with trustworthy sellers you do not have to worry that the goods will not arrive and thus choose the cash on delivery option. A reliable seller will refund the amount paid if the goods are not delivered.
With such an approach, we know that if a parcel arrives from a strange trader named Achtal Eagle and based in Slovenia (this is not a prejudice against Slovenians, but a negative experience with numerous fraudulent shippers giving their address in Slovenia), we will not pay the courier the required 1500 crowns for it and will calmly refuse it.
If the parcel is addressed to a family member or a neighbour, we will check with the person concerned whether they have placed the order, including the amount and the forwarding company.
However, prevention is not always enough and sometimes fraudsters can coincidentally hit a time period and amount that corresponds with the shipment we ordered. And then we fall for it. What are some of the scams we can expect to encounter from dishonest traders?
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A delivery I didn’t order
A typical source of profit for internet scammers is sending out unsolicited COD mail. The price of the parcel is quoted in the order of a few hundred crowns, even in the low thousands of crowns. This is a sum that will not surprise anyone in any fundamental way. Before Christmas, most people expect to receive several (up to several dozen) parcels, or they take parcels to family members or even neighbours. So they calmly accept the next package, pay for it and find something completely worthless inside, a plain cheap T-shirt, slippers or kitchen utensils they didn’t order.
On closer inspection, they then discover that they have had no contact with the sender and that the item has not been exchanged for another one they ordered.
How to proceed at this point?
Then it depends mainly on the determination and energy we want to put into resolving the situation. Many people just wave their hands at the unnecessary expenditure of five hundred euros a month before Christmas.
The rational approach would be to find the company by name on the Internet, look up its contacts and agree with its representative that there has been a mistake, send the goods back and where to send the money. There is nothing to be gained for trying, and perhaps there really was only an inadvertent mix-up of addressees. Unfortunately, in the case of fraudulent shipments sent in bulk, there is almost zero chance that you will be able to find the money, or even just the contact details of the sender. Very often the name of the sender also sounds similar to an existing e-shop, but it is a different entity.
Tip: If a trader has cheated you as a customer, sold you a fake or a “junk” product and then failed to accept your claim, do not hesitate to defend yourself. You can, of course, go shopping at a competitor or describe the seller’s practices on social media. But the law gives you another important tool: you can file a complaint with the Czech Trade Inspection Authority. We covered the topic more in our article.
Cash on delivery with invoice attached
A similar situation to the previous unsolicited COD parcels is when the recipient finds small cosmetics, razors or coins. These are accompanied by an invoice urging you to pay for them, or a contract committing you to repeated long-term purchases.
In the case of unsolicited offers sent free of charge (food supplements, seeds, razors) with an invoice attached, not only are you not obliged to pay for the goods, but you are not even obliged to find the sender and return them. This is his risk. Under the law, there is no unjust enrichment here, even if the trader threatens to do so in the letter. If the trader wants the goods back, he can collect them at his own expense. Provided you still have them. In legal terms, it is still unsolicited mail, so there has not been a typical offer and acceptance of the goods and therefore no contract of sale. This is merely a marketing practice.
A special variant of the previous scams are the various surprise packages and mystery boxes. The fundamental difference is that these are solicited shipments, where people order a package with contents they do not know in advance. In this way, the merchant advertises that it is a mailing of unclaimed goods at a big discount. This is a form of surprise, but the recipients assume that if they pay, for example, a thousand crowns, they will receive goods of this (or higher) value. This can be various collector’s series, cosmetics or toys.
The inconsistency then lies in the fact that people receive worthless items worth at most tens of crowns. Even such a case could be evaluated as fraud and reported to the Czech Trade Inspection Authority.
In the case of mystery offers, the only sensible prevention is not to take advantage of them and rather wait for Black Friday or post-Christmas discounts at sellers of similar goods. If we do want to take advantage of the offer, it should be with a very well vetted trader, where we can be sure that they will allow us to withdraw from the contract and return the goods within 14 days.
Tip: Have you been put at a disadvantage in a hotel, shop or restaurant just because you belong to a certain nationality or have a darker skin colour? Are there situations where a business can afford to do this? How far does the freedom of enterprise and the autonomy of the will of entrepreneurs extend and what can already be considered discrimination against consumers?
Shipment with money transfer
Fake buyers use various fake photos and printscreens on all kinds of bazaars and markets on social media. You sell a coat, a microwave oven or a pram, for example, and the person in question gets in touch with you, saying that he or she will transfer the money through a mail order company or another supplier. He or she will include a screenshot of the logo of the shipping company and instructions on how to transfer the money. But this is also a scam that abuses the logos and graphics of proven companies.
And how does the whole transaction go if you agree to this form of purchase? The scenario can be different. For example, the fake buyer will tell you that your email address is enough for the transfer, and send you an email with a trustworthy-looking button that, when pressed, can let a virus into your computer or mobile phone, compromising your computer data, including passwords to sensitive data and so on.
Alternatively, you are offered to send money via your card, whose number and other details the fake buyer requests.
Shipping companies overwhelmingly offer cash-on-delivery, but the entire transaction takes place directly in their app or on their website, not by clicking through to strange-sounding web addresses. Therefore, do not react to such calls and do not communicate with the person or report him/her to the operator of the online bazaar.
In the vast majority of the above-mentioned situations, this is an unfair commercial practice and the consumer can file a complaint with the Czech Trade Inspection Authority against the trader.
Another option is to report the sender to the Czech Police. The latter may itself investigate the identity of the sender. If the Police receive more such reports and it is clear that the activity is systematic and has caused significant damage (in the words of the law, “not insignificant damage”), then it is obvious that the activity is fraudulent and can be classified as a criminal offence. As to the specific amount of the damage caused, it must be at least CZK 10 000 to qualify as a fraud offence. Following any criminal proceedings, it is theoretically possible to recover the amount spent.