Online marketplaces for free ads are very popular in Switzerland: Ad platforms such as Tutti, Anibis, Ricardo, or Facebook Marketplace are booming. Here, users have the chance to sell and buy everything there also is in the real world: New and used goods like clothes and furniture, vehicles, and even real estate. It is practical, and in most cases unproblematic: Useless gifts can be turned into cash, or you can get a new watch for next to nothing. But fraudsters can also be found on such online marketplaces.
The case of Anna W.: Paid in advance and ripped off
Anna W. came across a tempting offer on such an online marketplace: A nearly new cellphone of a famous brand offered for only CHF 600. She contacted the seller and notified them that she was interested in their offer. The seller responded immediately and said she could have the smartphone but should hurry because they already had several offers. Moreover, Anna had to send CHF 200 immediately to a number via Twint as a “security deposit.” She would then receive the item by mail in the next few days. Anna transferred the money, but never received the promised phone. A little while later, she was no longer able to contact the seller by phone since they had blocked her number. The ad also disappeared from the online marketplace.
Anna W. fell victim to fraud (Art. 146 of the Swiss Penal Code)
She is not alone in falling victim to such fiendish tricks. According to the law, it is clearly fraud as defined in the Swiss Penal Code (Art. 146 StGB). In legal terms, fraud means the intention to profit illegally by maliciously deceiving another person. It is a so-called public offense. This means that such offenses can be reported to the police and that they have to investigate the matter.
Prevention is better than cure. How to recognize fraud online
There are various ways online fraudsters try to deceive innocent victims on the Internet. You should be particularly alert if you notice the following warning signs, as they are usually an indication of fraud:
- Caution with offers that are too good to be true: You should be skeptical if an item is offered for a disproportionately low price. Ask the seller and request a purchase receipt.
- Don’t let yourself be pressured into making a purchase: Often fraudsters put their victims under time pressure with the argument that the offer is limited or that there are other interested parties. Take your time: A serious seller does not put time pressure on potential buyers.
- Check the seller’s profile: Look at the seller’s reviews and check all contact information listed on their profile. Be mistrustful if you are later contacted by a phone number that is different from the one given on the profile.
- Ask for the option to pick up the item personally: You should always be suspicious if the seller asks for payment in advance. Transfer the money only after you have received an official shipment report from the post (which is available per track and trace). Or ask if you can pick up the item personally.
- Seller protection: Get information before making the purchase about whether the platform you are using offers so-called buyer’s protection in case a buyer does not receive the purchased item despite having paid. On Ricardo, purchases made against advance payment are protected up to CHF 250.
I was the victim of Internet fraud. What can I do?
Despite every precaution, you may still fall victim to fraud. We advise the following:
File a police report. Go to the police station where you live or the nearest station. Take all the documents with you that you can use to document the fraud (mail correspondence, text messages, and all information you have on the seller, etc.). If you file criminal charges, you must show proof of your identity. Therefore, be sure to take your ID, passport, or foreigner’s ID with you. The police must accept your report: The officers will create a written protocol and initiate proceedings.
We also recommend contacting the online platform and relaying your case. This way, you can get more information on the fraudulent seller and, at the same time, contribute to preventing further criminal offenses by helping the platform block fraudsters.
Have you been ripped off online and not yet filed a police report? We'll be happy to answer all of your questions.