Fraud on second-hand platforms such as Vinted - What you can do about it

You have found a bargain on a European second-hand platform like Vinted, paid for it and received the parcel.

But after unwrapping it, you discover that the package contains new goods and an invoice, for example from Zalando, Douglas or Weltbild.

If this is the case, you presumably became a victim of a scam known as the "Zalando scam".

We explain what you have to do now. Act immediately, because even a platform buyer protection only helps to a very limited extent. In the worst case you are threatened with trouble from the debt collection agency.

Summary of the "Zalando scam"

In the triangulation fraud (known as the "Zalando scam"), three people are involved. The scamming seller, the legitimate online retailer and the consumer.

  1. The consumer orders from the fraudulent seller via an online platform like Vinted and pays to the platform. The platform pays to the fraudulent seller when the buyer protection has expired.
  2. The fraudulent seller orders from a reputable online retailer and tells the platform to ship the goods to the consumer.
  3. The consumer unwraps the parcel. The goods are in perfect condition.
  4. However, there is another bill in the package, this time from the legitimate online retailer. Or, some time later, a reminder from the reputable online trader arrives by post. And in the worst case, you receive a demand for payment from a debt collection agency.
  5. The money that the consumer paid to the fraudulent seller via the platform is gone in many cases.

How to recognise the "Zalando scam" to avoid becoming a victim?

  • Take a close look at the seller's account: When was the account created? How many products are offered? What kind of products? A young account with a few products which can be ordered anywhere at any time should make you sceptical. Similarly, if the product is advertised with manufacturer photos instead of private photos.
  • Offers that are very attractively priced should make you pay attention. What seems too good to be true usually is. However, the scam can also be found in offers that are not a bargain.
  • Seller ratings can be an indication, but should be treated with caution. Ratings can be faked. Sometimes buyers leave a positive feedback even before they realise that they have become victim of the scam.
  • Ask the seller immediately for a tracking link and check if the seller's address matches the sender's address. If there are discrepancies, this is a strong indicator for a possible scam.
  • Open the parcel immediately after delivery. Otherwise, the deadline for buyer protection may have already expired and the money was paid by the platform to the fraudster. For example, buyer protection on Vinted is only valid for two days after receiving the package!
  • If the goods are delivered in the original box, you should check who exactly is the sender: the seller from the platform or a shop from which you did not order yourself?
  • If the delivery includes a bill from a shop you did not order from, you must act quickly. The time slot for any buyer protection that may exist on the platform is narrow. Sometimes only a few days remain. After that, the platform pays the money to the fraudulent seller.
  • Be careful if the package does not arrive: Do not confirm receipt of the goods under any circumstances, even if the seller asks you to do so in order to supposedly reimburse the money.

What should I do if I had become a victim of the scam?

  • Immediately activate the buyer protection on the platform (if available and booked by you) and use it to report the scam. For example, on the Vinted platform, you need to click "I have a problem" in the chat with the seller. Often you only have a few days to do so! On Vinted, for example, it is only two days after receiving the goods.
  • Go to the police and file a complaint. This is possible at any police station and, depending on the federal state, also online.
  • Write to the legitimate seller who delivered the goods to you and inform him that you have become a victim of identity theft. Include the report of the police. Many shops know the scam, are helpful, take the goods back and cancel the invoice.
  • As an additional safety, you can also use your regular 14-day right of withdrawal from a reputable trader. Use our sample letter to do so.
  • Try to reverse the payment by credit card (charge back) or payment service provider. You must also act quickly using this method.
  • Inform the online platform about the fraudulent account, even if you have not booked buyer protection.
  • Warn other users by posting appropriate feedback on the seller.

How does the scam work on second-hand platforms like Vinted?

When buying on a second-hand online platform such as Vinted, the fraudulent seller obtains a lot of  information regarding the buyer: name, postal address, email. The problem: The fraudulent seller is not in possession of the advertised item, he only pretends thus he is!

Instead, the fraudster creates a new customer account with a reputable online trader who has the advertised product on offer, without the buyer's knowledge. He orders the product and let it to be delivered to the buyer.

The goods are delivered to the buyer by the legitimate trader. There is only one catch: the buyer also receives a bill from the legitimate trader. But the buyer has already paid the supposed purchase price to the platform.

At first, many consumers do not know what has happened to them. It is a triangulation fraud that circumvents the buyer protection on platforms for second-hand goods such as Vinted. This practice has become known as the so-called "Zalando scam". Our diagram below shows how the scam works.

Furthermore, the fraudulent sellers use every opportunity to gain time, because many online shops do no longer put their invoices in the package, but send them by email. To avoid thus the buyer from becomes sceptical too quickly, the fraudsters have the invoice sent to their own email address. Follow-up reminders are also sent to the fraudsters in this way. The buyer only receives a demand for payment when the legitimate shop contacts him by post or has the amount collected by a debt collection agency.

In the end, the fraudulent seller received the money from the platform and managed to circumvent the buyer protection. And the buyer has to pay for the goods again. Even if the reputable shop agrees to take back the goods and cancel the invoice, the buyer ends up without the goods despite of having paid to the platform.

Where can I become a victim of this scam?

You can fall victim to this kind of scam on all platforms that share their customer data with sellers for shipping. This is the case on Vinted, for example.

Although the triangulation fraud has become known as the "Zalando scam", it can affect all online retailers that offer payment on account. In Germany, this concerns Douglas and Weltbild, among others.



Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.