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Online trading scams rampant

Many fraudulent traders have managed to steal money from consumers via online trading activities by using simple tricks, while the legal regulation concerning this issue still remains incomplete.

Duong Thi Ngoc Giau, residing in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang, said earlier this year she fell into the trap of a fraud on the www.didongsaigon.net website.

The website advertised that many cell phones were discounted 50-percent, so she chose to buy a Nokia X6, she said.

On calling to the number displayed on the website, Giau met Khoa, who asked her to transfer money into his account in advance, and wait a few days for the product to be delivered.

However, two days after Giau had sent money to Khoa, the mobile phone had still not arrived . On asking for Khoa, she was replied that the man “was on a business trip.”

Losing patience, Giau called another trader of the website, and protested: “Why does this trading look like a scam?” To her astonishment, she was told: “ It is.”

Giau then telephoned VietcomBank, asking to have the bank account of the fraudulent trader blocked. However, the bank said she had to ask the police to fulfill that request, which discouraged her from continuing , since it would be a complicated process.

She also learned later that despite claiming to be authentic products, all of the discounted products on the website were Chinese made.

On the morning of February 19, your correspondent came to the address of the shop, as displayed on the website, at 700 Lac Long Quan Street, Tan Binh District, and was surprised to see that the mobile phone shop is actually a fruit store.

The fruit store owner said the phone shop had been closed for years, and she just re-rented the shop to sell fruit. Your correspondent asked Khoa, and was directed to another shop at 561 Lac Long Quan, where only a couple of cell phones were found on display. .

“Since the main store of our website is under construction, we have to display the products here temporarily,” an employee at the store told your correspondent.

Meanwhile, when asked why Giau has yet to receive the product although she had cleared payment 15 days previously, Khoa appeared to be confused, and said: “The product has been delivered.” Then he disconnected the call.

Tu, a resident of Hanoi’s Tay Ho District, has also been cheated, although he has purchased goods via website many times.

After browsing a number of online trading websites, Tu decided to buy a secondhand iPad for VND11 million from a man named Long in Ho Chi Minh City.

After exchanging contact information via the phone, Long confirmed with Tu that he only had to give him a deposit of VND5 million, and that the remainder would be settled after he received the product.

Convinced, Tu transferred the money to Long, and has since been unable to contact the trader by any means.

Consumers are not protected

Nguyen Nam Vinh, head of the southern office of the Vietnam Standard and Consumers Association (Vinastas), said his institution received a number of complaints from consumers about fraudulent online trading activities on an annual basis.

Consumers do not know where to lodge their appeals, and from whom to ask for help, Vinh said, adding under the current legal regulation, consumers are not fully protected when it comes to online trading.

For his part, lawyer Nguyen Huu The Trach said online trading scams are not a new kind of fraud, and the swindlers can still be indicted and prosecuted as criminals.

However, since most of the trading activities are done via websites, consumers usually cannot prove evidence of their being cheated. Thus, it is not simple to indict the online fraud traders, he said.

Truong Hong Quang, an official from the Ministry of Justice, said that many loopholes in legal regulation regarding online trading activities remain.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has issued Circular No 46 to stipulate the responsibility of the parties involved in online trading.

“However, the circular does not have any clause concerning whether or not the website owners are to be held responsible in case disputes arising from online trading activities,” Quang said.

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