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Shopping in the internet is becoming more and more popular. Not surprisingly: After all, shopping online isn't just easy and convenient, but it's often quite a bit cheaper than in a traditional store too. However, in this virtual world, you need to take extra care: Fraudsters are out there just waiting to trick you!

The following cases demonstrate some of the pitfalls you need to watch out for: Nadja Z. discovers a website offering evening dresses from famous designers at very cheap prices. She immediately orders four of these "special offers" thinking that one of them is guaranteed to fit – and she'll send the other three back. Nadja gets a nasty shock when the order arrives: The dresses don't look anything like the photos on the internet and are all far too big. She decides to return the entire order and contacts the provider's customer service department. They make explicit reference to the General Terms and Conditions, and tell her that a return is not possible since the clothes have been made specially to order for Nadja. The customer considers lodging a complaint and checks the website details, only to discover that the provider's registered office is in China…

A civil action is even possible!

Another scenario: A few weeks after placing her order, rather than receiving the goods, Nadja receives a registered letter from a Genevan lawyer who represents the designer. The letter demands that she pays claims for damages for importing counterfeit branded goods. Conclusion: The money's gone, and Nadia is facing not only a civil action from the brand owner, but must also fear criminal consequences. After all, importing counterfeit goods into Switzerland is forbidden.

How to shop safely online:

Check the provider: Examine the details concerning owner and location. If you can't find these: Hands off!

Seek out customer reports: Search in Google for online shops you don't already know with the term "customer experience." This'll quickly give you some pointers to the seriousness of the provider.

Read the small print: The General Terms and Conditions often contain important information on delivery and any right to withdraw from the contract or to exchange the goods. 

Use well-known online shops: Large, well-established providers can't afford to upset their customers. You can therefore expect them to show goodwill when it comes to complaints or returns.

What to avoid:

Buying counterfeit goods: The purchase and import of counterfeit goods is punishable under Swiss law. In a best-case scenario, the Customs will seize the goods. At worst, you must expect criminal consequences and a civil action.

Belief in the impossible: What sounds too good to be true is rarely what it seems. So hands off apparent "bargains." Often, fraudsters will be behind these offers.

Direct money transfers: If you transfer money directly to the provider's account, the money's gone. It's better to pay using established payment methods such as a credit card or PayPal. If the worst comes to the worst, serious providers of payment services will pursue your rights!

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