Police warn of surge in fake webstores

Police are concerned about a new type of scam involving "rogue workshops" which they say have already defrauded some 800 people into ordering items online via fake online shops. According to a police statement, opportunistic scammers are capitalizing on people staying put during the Covid-19 pandemic, and have shifted their tact from selling medical and non-medical masks and other protective equipment to selling electronics and sports equipment.

"Consumers have recently had to do without a gym. Then you see that cyber criminals offer all kinds of products related to sports at home, such as fitness equipment, trampolines, treadmills and table tennis tables," explained the police's tech chief Gijs van der Linden, adding that number of rogue webshops offering such equipment has risen dramatically.

According to the police, the National Internet Fraud Reporting Center (LMIO), which tackles purchase and sales fraud online, has already taken more than twenty such websites off the internet.

The police point to a number of cautionary steps that members of the public can take in order to avoid falling victim to the scammers running the rogue workshops. "For example, people can look up the domain name on the police website," explained Van Der Linden, adding that one may use the resource to see whether the bank account number, email address or telephone number of the website is valid.

Ultimately, despite the best efforts of the LMIO, it remains the responsibility of internet users themselves to be vigilant of the risks associated with online shopping, the police said.

"Be aware that when you shop online there is always a risk of being scammed. So keep a close eye on which party you want to do business with. And remember: if something seems too good to be true, it usually is," said Van Der Linden.