How to spot a fake online shop

If you see a good offer for your business online, be careful. Some fake websites are almost impossible to tell from the real thing. But you can recognise a fake website and avoid making a fake purchase with just a few basic checks.

The Fraud Help Desk (Fraudehelpdesk) has reported increasing amounts of fraud in the name of familiar online shops in recent years. And every year, the Stichting Internet Domeinregistratie Nederland (SIDN) removes thousands of fake online shops from the internet. If you order from a fake salesperson, you will lose your money without receiving your order.

Five questions to check reliability

If you are not sure about the reliability of an online shop, you can see if the shop is on the list of unreliable sellers (in Dutch) kept by the police. If the company is not on the list, you can ask the following 5 questions.

1. Which business activities are listed in the Business Register?

There is a good chance that the scammer is selling completely different products than those mentioned in the Business Register. Maybe they offer popular products, like energy drinks or wood, but the Business Register says that the company is active in metalworking. In that case, do not trust the seller. They could be a scammer using someone else’s company name.

2. Where is the company located?

If the website seems to be for a large company with its own factory or warehouse, but the Business Register shows the address for a private home, then something is not right. All of a company’s addresses must be listed in the Business Register, except for the addresses of entrepreneurs with an eenmanszaak (sole proprietorship). Since 2022, they are allowed to ask the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce to shield their statutory address.

Do you still trust the company and want to do business with it? Try to contact them using the details listed in the Business Register. Do not use the telephone number or email address on the website, because these contact details may be for the scammer.

3. Is the website real?

Before you do business with the company, check the ScamCheck (in Dutch) to see if the website is for an existing company. This online tool shows whether an .nl website is registered with KVK, the SSL security certificate is still valid, and if the website has been used for other phishing attacks. SIDN also has tips (in Dutch) to find out if an online seller is reliable.

Does the company sell to consumers? If so, then the statutory address, email address, and KVK number must be shown on the website (in Dutch).

Scammers like to use the names of familiar suppliers for fake websites. “Be careful and critical when you buy something via a website for the first time. Scammers can even fake documents, stamps, and names, as well as fake inspection reports, export documents, or bills of lading”, explains Jacob van der Vis, KVK business adviser for fraud and cybercrime. “You should always be careful, even if someone you know sends you the information. That person may be working together with the scammer.”

If the seller is located in a foreign country, you can check the business details in a foreign business register.

4. Can you pay safely?

Only pay using secure payment systems, like credit card, iDEAL, PayPal, or payment upon receipt. Never transfer money in advance to a foreign bank or an intermediary. Margot Heesakker is a team leader at, the English-language website for doing business in the Netherlands. Heesakker regularly gets questions from foreign entrepreneurs who buy things online in the Netherlands: “Can I trust this website? I have ordered items and paid for them. But I have not heard anything from the seller in a while, and I cannot reach them.” Heesakker helps these entrepreneur check whether a seller is reliable by answering the check questions together.

5. What do other people say about this company?

Reviews show whether other customers have been satisfied in the past. A seal of approval also shows if the seller is reliable, like Thuiswinkel Waarborg and Webshop Keurmerk. If a company does not have a seal of approval, but is a member of an industry association (in Dutch) then other companies in the same sector know about it. The industry association website will show what rules a company must meet to become a member, and what assurance that gives for customers.

If you still do not trust the company, try to look for another supplier.

Are you the victim of a fake purchase?

If you have been scammed by a seller with a fake website, there are a few things you can do:

  1. Request a refund via your bank.
  2. If that does not work: If you know who the scammer is, you can request a refund from them personally. You can also request legal assistance, for example via your legal assistance insurance policy.
  3. Report the scam to Fraud Help Desk (in Dutch) and submit a police report (in Dutch).