Caution: Fake Shop!
Christmas is approaching fast and the Internet may tempt one or another to try making a good bargain. Particularly premium brand goods, like fashion or electronics, are in high demand.
Beware of the trap
But when you are looking for a specific product on the Internet, perhaps by using a search machine, you may – without noticing – land on a sales site that looks professional but is fake – a fake shop to be precise.
What is a fake shop?
Fake shops are fraudulent online shops that offer alleged branded products at very low prices. But these shops either do not deliver the goods ordered at all or they deliver them only in inferior quality (plagiarism). The consumer, who has been cheated for their money, loses out – as does the company whose brand has been abused. Additionally, the personal data of the consumer collected during the ordering process, such as name and address and, depending on the method of payment, possibly their credit card data, will come into the hands of the shop owner.
What you can do to protect yourself
In Germany there are some institutions that make available important information (in German) how to identify a fake shop and which rules to observe when shopping online:
- the German consumer advice center Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V. or
- the citizens' portal of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) citizen's portal of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).
Additionally, there are some European websites, where you can find information in English:
Moreover, you can view a list of online shops that have been clearly identified as untrustworthy at the consumer protection site Watchlist Internet. This list is constantly updated.
What you can do if you have fallen to a fake shop
If you have fallen victim to a dubious online shop, you should file a complaint with the police and inform your bank or payment service provider immediately. Useful tips in German are provided on the website of the Police Crime Prevention of the Federal States and the Federal Government.
Why is it impossible for DENIC to take action against fake shops
Online shops sell their goods via websites and the content of these websites. DENIC, in contrast, only registers domains, i. e. names that refer to computers. To put it in another way, DENIC provides a service that assigns a name easy to remember by humans to an address that is used by computers to communicate with each other on the Internet (IP address). DENIC renders this service only for domains with the ending .de.
DENIC has no access to the content of the website to which a domain refers. Therefore, DENIC cannot take action against a fake shop or delete content from a fake shop site.
What DENIC can do for you
The content of a website is not stored on the computers of DENIC but normally on those of so-called hosting providers. DENIC has no access to these computers. Consequently, only the shop owner or their hosting provider can delete a fake shop and its content.
DENIC can only assist affected parties who wish to claim their consumer or trademark rights against a fraudulent online shop when a domain with a .de extension refers to the relevant shop. We can then give you the name and contact details of the provider who administers the domain. This provider either hosts the website of the shop in question themselves or can give you the name of the hosting provider.
Alternatively, parties affected can try to find the host of the domain in question themselves. There are free services on the Internet that will take you to a search machine when you enter search terms like "find host" or "DNS lookup". This alternative is an option when the domain referring to the shop has another ending than .de, in which case DENIC will not have any data about the domain.
Whichever situation applies, the shop owner and the hosting provider are the only parties to contact.