Pandemic Lockdowns Pushed Greeks to Online Shopping, Arms of Fraud

ATHENS – The temporary closure of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, which cast a shadow and brought about lockdowns, compelled Greeks and residents of the country to turn to online shopping for most goods. However, it also resulted in a surge of fraud perpetrated by e-commerce businesses.

This surge has led to prosecutions of companies that defrauded unsuspecting buyers by accepting their money without delivering the goods, among other scams. The Ministry of Development fined one such company in Larisa €120,000 ($130,072). Although the store’s name was not disclosed, and its operations were suspended, it was not shut down despite committing the crime, which has become increasingly common in Greece.

E-fraud primarily targets the most vulnerable or naive individuals who fail to conduct due diligence before providing their debit or credit card information online. Illegitimate companies find it easy to establish online platforms and exploit people’s money.

When fake companies are penalized or shut down, they often reopen under different names or domains, perpetuating the same fraudulent practices without facing prosecution or imprisonment. In Larissa, as reported by Kathimerini, the same owner, headquarters, and similar brand names were used to deceive customers, yet the identities of these fraudulent entities remain undisclosed, leaving unsuspecting individuals vulnerable to further scams.

Electronic fraud surged between 2020 and 2021, coinciding with the height of the pandemic. However, few warnings were issued to consumers at the time. The implementation of a new European Union regulation on the single market for digital services is expected to facilitate quicker intervention in such cases.

In 2020, the Ministry of Development imposed fines totaling over €1.7 million ($1.84 million) on 15 online stores. By 2022, the Consumer Ombudsman received 3,004 complaints concerning consumer goods, with 18.04 percent related to e-commerce.

The majority of complaints involved websites offering branded products at unusually low prices, resulting in customers either not receiving their orders or receiving low-quality knock-off products.

Online fraud incidents surged by 400 percent between 2018 and 2023, with the Greek Police Cybercrime unit reporting 5,261 incidents in 2023 alone. There are concerns that advancements in Artificial Intelligence will make fraud easier to perpetrate and harder to detect.

In the first half of 2023, electronic fraud amounted to €9 million ($9.76 million) in 174,000 cases, highlighting Greece’s dismal ranking as 25th out of the 27 EU member states in terms of digital literacy, digital technology adoption, and the digitization of public services according to the Bank of Greece.


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This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936.

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