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How do I protect myself against Internet scams?

Bern, 02.07.2010 - There are lots of enticing and apparently free offers on the Internet. It takes just one click of the mouse and the alleged free offers turn out costly. That’s why you should always read the small print! If you’ve already fallen foul of the offer then take action to protect yourself! The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO and the Federal Consumer Affairs Bureau FCAB give practical tips in the brochure entitled «Beware of Internet scams».

In addition to genuine offers there are numerous enticing and apparently free offers which can turn out to be costly. Particular vigilance is required for the following topics:
Prize draws, ring tones, logos and games for mobile phones, tests of all kind, free SMS text messages, romance and chat lines, clairvoyant services, life expectancy, poetry, alcohol problems, free programmes, song lyrics, help with homework, help with DIY, astrology,  celebrities, jokes, art.

Unlike genuine free offers, in the case of scams the user is always required to register using his/her name, address and e-mail or for SMS subscriptions his/her personal mobile number as well. The contractual clauses are hidden in the small print or the general conditions of business. So you should always read the small print first!

By clicking on the mouse or entering a mobile number the user is unwittingly entering into a long-term and expensive subscription agreement. The bill is sent by return mail. The Internet scammers are extremely persistent in their efforts to collect their money: an endless stream of e-mails, the use of debt collection agencies or lawyers.

Anyone caught out by the scam should take the following action to protect themselves:

1. refuse to pay the bill
2. send a registered letter to the service provider as soon as you become aware of your mistake. Your letter should state that you are contesting the validity of the agreement on the grounds that you made a mistake and that the offer on the website was intentionally misleading. This one  letter is sufficient to release you from the contract.

To order free copies of the brochure «Watch out for Internet scams» and for questions on the subject please go to fair-business@seco.admin.ch

Address for enquiries:

SECO, Law Division, Tel. +41 (31) 322 77 70

Publisher:

State Secretariat for Economic Affairs
Internet: http://www.seco.admin.ch
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