Number of offenses committed online on the rise
With the growth of e-commerce, the number of offenses committed online is on the rise. Prefect Kristian Jaani of the Estonian police’s North Prefecture said that the authorities received four to five notifications of fraud and fraudulent conduct every day.
This had so far caused financial damage of up to €3m a year, Jaani added. As e-commerce was a convenient way of shopping and thus increasingly popular, there was always a risk of getting cheated out of one’s money. Victims of e-commerce fraud could be found among buyers as much as sellers, Jaani said.
“Fake payment orders are common. The seller receives an e-mail that seems to confirm that money was paid, while in fact a swindler created a fake payment order and is cheating the seller, who sends out the merchandise,” Jaani explained.
Buyers don’t read contracts
According to Director General of the Consumer Protection Board Andres Sooniste, online fraud makes up between 20 and 30% of all complaints annually. The most common thing is that people don’t read the contracts they’re agreeing to or signing online.
“If people tick conditions or agree to points of a contract without having read the agreement, then this can lead to negative feedback in the long term,” Sooniste said. He added that this mostly occurred in connection with price manipulations and changing offers.
Jaani also stresses the importance of getting familiar with any agreement about to be entered into. If for example a smartphone performed an update, this always brought along lengthy contracts that needed to be agreed to in order to use the software, he said. But not many people actually went ahead and read these conditions before agreeing to them.
Difficult to help the victims
A lot of victims of online fraud turn to the police for help, but according to the prefect, the chance of actually getting money or merchandise back is generally small.
The Internet and its anonymity let the authorities only see a username and an IP address, Jaani said. It was very difficult to verify who was behind it and connect the case to a specific individual, he added.