Many Germans buy their Christmas presents directly online in order to get the best price. Used products, which you can get hold of in second-hand shops, are cheaper than new goods.

But if you are not careful here, you will quickly fall for the so-called triangle fraud and will be asked to pay twice. We will show you how this scam works and what you can do about it.

The triangle scam is very simple, but many customers fall for it because it is hardly recognizable in advance. The method can be used on all used goods portals on the Internet.

Complaints about this are regularly received by the European Consumer Center Germany (EVZ). Here’s how the scammers work:

This nasty scam is a form of identity theft, as scammers use your personal information to create an account and place orders.

The EVZ assumes that the number of unreported cases is high, since many of those affected are ashamed of having been tricked. The value of the goods is often not high enough to make the effort of an advertisement.

There is no such thing as 100% protection against triangle scams, but there are a few things you can look out for before making a purchase on second-hand portals. The most common warning signs:

If you want to make the purchase, there are methods that you can use to protect yourself additionally. Before making the first payment, ask for a link to track the shipment – if the seller doesn’t agree, then something is fishy.

Buyer protection is often only valid for a few days on second-hand platforms. So if you receive a package with an invoice, you should act immediately and alert the platform to protect other customers as well.

You can also contact the shop from which you received the goods on account on the same day – explain your situation and the goodwill return will probably not be a problem.

If you pay via PayPal, you should never select “Send money to friends”, because then the buyer protection does not apply. If you’ve transferred the money, you may be able to reverse the payment once you spot the scam.