Last month, the Contact Point of the Federal Public Service (FPS) for Economy of the Kingdom of Belgium received more than a hundred reports concerning fake online sales sites. It is noted that scammers are taking advantage of the news and are now creating fake sales sites for wood products. Persons 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.
It is underlined that since July 1, the Contact Point of the FPS Economy has received at least 126 reports concerning fake online sales sites for wood products and victims report an average loss of 750 euros, but one of them reported losing 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.
How fake sales do work?
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/she answers, he/she 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.
How to identify reliable online sales sites?
To help you recognize reliable sales sites, the FPS Economy created the website webshopsecurise.be a few months ago. It gives you tips for buying online safely and unmasking fraudulent websites. For more information and tips please click here (FR).
"Internet fraud is a growing problem. It is therefore necessary to be vigilant to make purchases online safely. The Federal Public Service Economy therefore raises awareness of this problem as much as possible, for example via webshopsecurise.be. Anyone who notices a fraudulent online store or who is the victim of a scam can report it via the FPS Economy Contact Point." -Pierre-Yves Dermagne, Minister of the Economy
Eva De Bleeker, State Secretary for Consumer Protection said "unfortunately, the creativity and deviousness of scammers no longer knows any bounds. It is therefore important that we react quickly as soon as a new form of fraud appears. I would also advise consumers to always be critical: does something seem too good to be true? So it probably is."
Source: FPS Economy - Belgium