Consumer protectionWatchdog warns against identity theft on the Internet

At the moment, the early warning network of the market watchdog for the digital world is alarmed due to various consumer complaints regarding identity theft on the Internet. The market watchdog teams responsible for Digital services, Digital purchases, User-generated content, Digital goods as well as Telecommunications services have all received numerous complaints on the misuse of identity and personal consumer data. Nationwide more than 200 complaints were submitted to the market watchdog teams which are based on various forms of identity fraud.

These are the key points:

  • Unauthorized set-up: Subscriptions for paid video streaming services as well as expensive dating portals and premium mail accounts have been made using wrong names.
  • Online shopping: In many cases, unauthorized goods were purchased at shopping platforms, such as for example audio books or software, which can then be sold illegally later on.
  • Unexpected contract conclusion: Moreover, mobile phone contracts were concluded by means of identity theft, about which consumers were informed only upon receiving welcome letters or payment requests from the respective companies.
  • It was repeatedly shown that consumers, who had used their identity for online transactions earlier before, belatedly recognized their data had been misused when receiving unknown account debits or invoice letters. Most of the time it is unclear how the perpetrators obtain the digital identities and to what extent they use it or pass it on. 

Sven Scharioth, project leader at the market watchdog for the digital world at the German association of consumer organizations (vzbv), explained: "Our findings show that strangers can misuse the identities of consumers for various activities in all areas on the internet. (...) The cases which were reported to us already affect a wide range of providers. They come from all areas of the digital world. We will try to find out more about the background of this identity theft. We therefore ask those affected to continue to share their experiences with us. We are also very keen on any hints on how the data was obtained by the criminals."

Source: Watchdog for the digital world

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