Report internet fraud and call in a lawyer – Our lawyers at Herfurtner law firm will support you and your interests if you have been the victim of fraud on the internet.

What to do after an internet scam has occurred? This guide provides specific tips on the subject.

We also give you 6 helpful tips on how to protect yourself against online fraud and discuss the following topics

  • Internet fraud money back,
  • Internet fraud examples: What types of internet fraud are there?
  • What to do about internet fraud: How can you recognise attempts at cybercrime in advance and prevent them in good time?
  • Internet fraud lawyer: Those affected naturally want their money back. What options are there?
  • Internet fraud penalty and
  • Internet fraud insurance.

Our lawyers at the Herfurtner law firm regularly deal with these issues in their day-to-day work and have already supported numerous victims in the past, both in court and in out-of-court disputes.

To arrange a consultation with us, please click here to go directly to our contact area

Current internet fraud – official figures

Internet fraud update: In 2022, 136,865 cases of cybercrime were registered with the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in Germany. This figure shows a decrease of 6.5 per cent compared to 2021, but remains at a very high level.

The BKA points out that these figures only represent the tip of the iceberg, as presumably only one in ten actual attacks is reported. This indicates a high number of unreported cases, which could be as high as 90 per cent. It is also estimated that the damage caused by cybercrime in the German economy totalled 203 billion euros, which is around twice as high as in 2019. The most common gateway for cyberattacks is phishing.

The fact that cybercrime and cyber fraud have increased significantly in recent years is due to many factors.

Digitalisation continues to advance and is changing our lives both at work and at home. While many people used the internet primarily for information purposes in the early days, it is now commonplace to shop online or even conclude contracts for financial services on the internet.

But what is convenient and transparent on the one hand, harbours a huge potential for fraud on the other. Because under the protection of anonymity, there is fertile ground for illegal activities.

If criminals gain an unlawful financial advantage by deceiving people and getting them to pay money without adequate consideration, the legal term is fraud.

And if such deception takes place on the Internet, it is quickly referred to as Internet fraud. However, there is no separate area of law, such as Internet law or online law.

What is the crime scene for internet fraud?

The crime scene for internet fraud is legally complex and can be defined in different ways. In general, the place of the offence of internet fraud is where the fraudulent act is committed or where the damage occurs. This can include the location of the perpetrator, the server on which the fraudulent act takes place or the place where the victim suffers the fraud.

As internet fraud often operates across borders, multiple jurisdictions may be affected. In practice, this means that investigations and legal action can take place in different countries depending on where the parties involved are based.

Internet fraud – what is it? Procedure of the offender groups

In cases of internet fraud, you often come across well-organised gangs that have established a global network and literally know no borders.

This is because it only takes seconds to get in touch with consumers all over the world online and offer them various services or products.

Comparatively wealthy countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland in particular are the focus of many fraudsters. Apart from the relative prosperity, the often good language skills, especially in English, are also of interest to fraudsters.

Particularly in the financial services or financial products segment, many providers do not even bother to present their online offers in German.
As a consumer or investor, you should be on your guard and at least check whether there are plausible imprint details, customer ratings or even licences from supervisory authorities.

Internet fraud what to do? 13 tips to protect yourself

Winnings out of the blue without having taken part in a lottery, a sudden inheritance or gifts of money from strangers: if an offer seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is.

To be on the safe side, you should always look out for hidden prices in adverts for “club memberships”, “competitions”, “free offers”, etc. If you see the word “free” or “free” in an advert, you should be careful.

As soon as you are asked to disclose personal data, you should be on your guard. This is how you can recognise and ward off Internet fraud:

  1. Fraudsters often come from abroad and do not speak German down to the last detail. This automatically leads to errors on websites. You should therefore pay close attention to the quality of a website in terms of spelling and grammar. An unprofessional design of the website is also suspicious.
  2. Never give your account details to an unknown caller. Passwords and PINs for debit and credit cards are never requested by real bank employees or even the police.
  3. If you are using a dating platform and have not looked the person you are looking for a partner in the eye in real life, refrain from providing any requested financial assistance.
  4. If you are dealing with strangers or companies you do not know, never pay anything in advance! For example, it is not uncommon to be asked to pay for the processing of gifts or prizes, but even alleged job offers or offers for new rental properties are only available against payment.
  5. Avoid giving unauthorised persons access to your computer or your personal data. In the event of an actual malfunction, banks, internet providers or authorities will never request access.
  6. As a general guideline, never open attachments from unknown senders in an e-mail message. This is one of the most common online scams. If the email contains an attachment or link, be vigilant as you may be asked to click on it or open the attachment and disclose personal information.
  7. Read the terms and conditions carefully before confirming your registration or purchase online. Contract terms or cancellation periods are usually an indication of a contractual obligation that entails costs.
  8. Have you been informed about your right of cancellation? It is usual that you can cancel a contract concluded online within the first two weeks without giving any reason. If the provider has not properly informed you of your right of cancellation, you have even more time to get out of the contract.
  9. Always read the small print (terms and conditions) and scroll to the bottom of a website before making a purchase. Then check the documents to see if you can find any hidden fees. Although reading the terms and conditions may be tedious, it’s almost the only way to know what you’re really getting into when shopping online.
  10. Check to see if any unnecessary boxes have been ticked as part of an order. Sometimes only asterisks (*) are used in highly fraudulent situations, and the appropriate description of the condition or the costs involved are hidden somewhere at the bottom of the page.
  11. The prospect of taking part in a fantastic competition should not be enough to entice you. This is because the rewards offered are usually there to distract unsuspecting participants from the actual costs.
  12. Never pass on your personal data if you are not one hundred per cent sure that you can rule out fraud. Above all, check to whom you are disclosing your financial data and for what purpose.
  13. Make sure you know how to get in touch with the service provider. This means that there must be an imprint on the website that contains the name and address details of the provider. A PO box should not be the only address given here. It can also be difficult to enforce your rights if the service provider is based abroad.

12 examples: What types of online fraud are there?

There are many different types of fraud. Fraudsters are also highly dynamic, with new methods constantly emerging, successful ones being refined and unsuccessful ones discarded. The motives for fraud can be very different. Some are initially interested in obtaining sensitive personal data, others target finances directly.

Internet fraud is not always obvious at first glance. If you don’t receive a delivery from an online shop, you would quickly realise that you have been scammed. The situation is different in the case of identity theft, for example, when data is “hijacked” from an identity card.

In this case, the damage often occurs with a certain time delay.

Many fraudsters also aim to install malicious software on the victim’s computer (so-called “malware”). This malware is used to spy on the personal data of the computer user or owner and use it for fraudulent purposes.

The following examples of Internet fraud are among the most common. If you familiarise yourself with them, you will internalise how to avoid Internet fraud.

Further examples of internet scams can be found in the following text section and on our Scams and Scamming page.

Fake online shops

The 100 top-selling online shops in Germany alone turn over around 40 billion euros every year. Shopping on the Internet is popular and established – which is precisely why it attracts many fraudsters. Nowadays, setting up an online shop no longer involves a great deal of effort. The hurdle to operating a “fake online shop” is correspondingly low.

In a fake online shop, fraudsters aim to get customers to order goods on a website and pay using a payment method of their choice. In these cases, the actual dispatch of the goods is not planned from the outset.

While the appearance of some shops can make you sceptical, others look deceptively genuine.

If you are waiting in vain for an order and fear that you have fallen victim to a fake shop, you should first rule out the possibility that it is not just a delay. Firstly, check whether you are still within the delivery period specified by the retailer.

According to BGH case law, online retailers are obliged to provide their customers with clear delivery times. In particular, these may not be hidden in the general terms and conditions.

How do I recognise a “fake online shop”?

The lawyers at Herfurtner Rechtsanwälte are regularly confronted with the question of whether a particular online presence is that of a reputable company. Asking a lawyer is potentially a good way to protect yourself from becoming a victim of Internet fraud.

However, as this will often not be possible immediately in practice, the following criteria can be used to assess the seriousness of a provider. If they appear, you should think twice before accepting the merchant’s offer:

  • The prices are considerably below the market average.
  • There are many grammatical and spelling mistakes in the product descriptions.
  • The promotional images used for the product are of poor quality.
  • There are no general terms and conditions.
  • The homepage lacks a legally valid imprint.

Have you already had experience with “fake online shops”? Then please let us know.

Internet fraud Ivory Coast

Internet fraud Ivory Coast: Fraudsters from various African countries, including Ivory Coast, are increasingly using the Internet to commit fraud.

Fraudsters often take advantage of the fact that many people respond to monetary incentives. For example, there are emails in which the addressee is informed that they are entitled to a large amount of money. It is not uncommon for seven or eight-figure euro or dollar amounts to be involved. And these messages are often written in English and supposedly come from abroad.

Although it is always essentially about the same thing, the reason varies. Sometimes the recipient has won a lottery in which they never took part. Sometimes the e-mail recipient is entitled to an impressive inheritance. There are also other similar scams on the Internet, in which big money is supposedly lurking.

In order to get your hands on the riches, however, you first have to transfer a four-digit dollar amount to complete the formalities.

If you agree to this, however, you soon realise that the promised assets have not been transferred – and the fraudsters have achieved their goal.

Used car fraud is another common example of internet fraud originating from the Ivory Coast. The following procedure is typical: A seller advertises his car on the Internet and is contacted by a potential buyer on the phone who is allegedly European and lives in Côte d’Ivoire.

This potential buyer will ask the seller to export the car to Africa using a transport company he has engaged. He would like to pay the purchase price either when he receives the used car or by bank transfer. But in these cases, the money is not paid.

Subscription traps

When surfing the Internet, you may end up on special pages where special offers are available. In most cases, the favourable prices are displayed very large, while the catches are very small and hidden. The trap snaps shut as soon as you fill in and send an application or registration form – without realising that this will incur costs.

Even if you’re browsing the internet on your smartphone, it’s easy to tap on an ad that pops up. If a subscription is unwittingly and involuntarily taken out, this is known as a “subscription trap”.

Once the victim has accepted the offer and sent their application, they promptly receive invoices and reminders from the fraudsters.

Fake court judgements have even been sent out as part of this form of internet fraud and victims have been asked to pay the fake judgement.

How do I deal with invoices from third-party providers?

Under certain circumstances, the subscription provider’s bill may be sent via the end customer’s mobile phone provider. In this constellation, the fraudsters act as third-party providers. If you are the recipient of such an invoice, please note the following:

In the vast majority of cases, no valid contract has been concluded. Such a contract is only concluded if you have deliberately clicked on a “buy/order with obligation to pay” button. Providers were obliged to do this by law in 2012 as part of the so-called “button solution”.

You should therefore object to the claim and contact the provider if you receive a legal reminder.

You can also deactivate the unwanted subscription with the billing company and reclaim the amount incurred. If this is unsuccessful, you can contact your mobile phone operator and reclaim the money after disputing the bill.

If these measures do not have the desired effect, it may be advisable to seek professional legal advice. They will examine your specific case and discuss further legal steps with you.

Offer for computer repair services

Someone from a large software company calls and claims to be able to fix PC problems such as slow Internet connections or long loading times. You will receive details in a separate e-mail. However, as soon as you open the scammer’s email, you download a remote access application that gives the scammer access to your computer.

This sounds very useful at first, as not all users have extensive computer skills. In reality, however, you are enabling the fraudster to install malware on your computer. And as soon as the virus is installed, the fraudsters can access all files, data and personal information.

This is why you should never accept unsolicited offers to repair your computer and never allow anyone to use your computer remotely.

Fake websites

If you use a search engine to find your bank’s website, you run the risk of being redirected to a fake website. These often look very similar to the original because they use design elements from the bank’s website.

Fraudsters use fake websites to try to trick people into disclosing their account details and passwords or dialling a telephone number and giving their personal details to a supposed bank representative.

Fraudsters also ask people to hand over control of their own computer so that the professional can carry out certain activities.

Reporting internet fraud

As soon as you realise that you have been the victim of Internet fraud, the question of where to report Internet fraud inevitably follows. As with all criminal offences, you should also contact the police in the case of cybercrime and file a criminal complaint. This can be done at the police station or at the relevant Internet police station (or “online police station”).

Internet fraud police: You can find out which Internet police station is responsible for the victim, for example, by searching for the term combination Internet police station and place of residence or Internet police station and postcode in a search engine. This will tell consumers where they can report Internet fraud.

In any case, you should report computer fraud, not least for the insurance company when you report the incident. It is also a good idea to inform consumer protection organisations about the fraud. This will give others the opportunity to protect themselves from suffering the same fate.

Ideally, the police will be able to identify and convict the fraudsters and bring them to justice. In Germany, the expected penalty for internet fraudsters is determined by law. As a rule, the fraudster faces a fine or prison sentence of up to five years.

How is fraud on the Internet penalised?

What is the penalty for perpetrators of internet fraud? The specific penalty is determined by a judge according to the circumstances of the individual case.

The following criteria are usually used to make a judgement in this regard:

  • The amount of damage caused,
  • the specific number of individual offences,
  • the nature of the offence,
  • if applicable, the criminal history of the offender and their relevant previous convictions,
  • the efforts to compensate for the damage.

When does internet fraud expire?

This question is relevant for aggrieved consumers who want to defend themselves. The law recognises the case of fraud (Section 263 (1) StGB) and fraud in particularly serious cases (Section 263 (3) StGB). The limitation period begins at the moment the financial loss is incurred.

In the case of “normal” fraud, the limitation period is five years. In the case of particularly serious offences, the limitation period is doubled and is ten years.

The most important first steps are to report the Internet fraud and contact a lawyer for Internet fraud.

Internet criminal law / Internet law

Incidentally, there is no separate “Internet criminal law”. Rather, various areas of law are involved in the determination of such offences. Accordingly, there is no code of law that deals exclusively with criminal offences on the Internet and could therefore be referred to as Internet criminal law.

The legislator also does not recognise pure Internet law. Nevertheless, one can speak of Internet law when dealing with legal problems that originate on the Internet. Internet law is therefore an interface of legal areas in the field of the Internet.

Internet fraud insurance

Which insurance covers internet fraud? This is a legitimate question, as the damage caused by internet fraud is often considerable. As the overall damage caused by internet fraud has steadily increased in recent years, the topic has also become a focus for insurance companies. Providers are increasingly offering so-called “cybercrime insurance”.

These can be a sensible form of cover under certain circumstances. However, policyholders should be aware that even insurance can only protect against financial risks. The labour involved in repairing the damage is usually not compensated.

Either way, the annoyance is always great and the damage very frequent. Consumers should therefore be aware of the problem of Internet fraud. Where offers seem too good or if personal data is requested, healthy scepticism is advisable.

Lawyer for internet fraud as first point of contact

What to do about internet fraud? This is what most victims ask themselves.

Anyone who has fallen victim to online fraud should seek help from an internet fraud lawyer.

The law firm Herfurtner Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH with offices in Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg looks after clients from all over Europe.

Lawyer for internet fraud: Part of our everyday life is to regularly face the challenges of the digitalised society on a legal level.

For this reason, advising clients in connection with internet fraud and IT law in general has long been one of our specialisations.

Internet fraud money back? The chances of recovering lost money always depend on the individual case.

Internet fraud lawyer: As a law firm, we scrupulously examine every possibility for our clients and provide an honest assessment. We also file criminal charges with the police for internet fraud and examine your claims for compensation.