Week 2: The fraudsters who claim to live in the Alps

16.01.2024 - Classified ad fraud is one of the phenomena that is very frequently reported to the NCSC. This type of fraud involves either the buyers or sellers of goods in classified ads on one of the common internet platforms. The reason why the fraudsters often allege that they live in a remote area is explained here.

The fraudulent buyer

When an advert appears online, it may be that potential buyers who have no intention of purchasing the item on offer respond. They appear interested in the item, then quickly agree to the terms and conditions – in the case of cars, for example, even without having seen the vehicle, let alone having taken it for a test drive.

They even push for a quick deal and may claim that the money for the purchase has already been deposited in a bank or with a shipping company. In order to ‘prove’ this, the seller may be sent forged bank documents.

So that the amount due can allegedly be transferred to the seller, the victim is sent a link to the alleged financial institution – but this is a phishing link asking for the victim's credit card details, which the fraudster can then use immediately for other transactions. Important: It is never necessary to enter credit card details in order to receive a payment. Only your IBAN is required.

Another example of classified ad fraud involves the buyer saying they have to pay some alleged fees up front, e.g. for shipping. They say this amount will be added to the purchase price, so that the seller has no separate outlay. However, the seller is asked to pay these fees in the form of anonymous payment cards and then send the payment card code to the buyer, i.e. the fraudster.

Example of how the seller is required to transmit alleged fees via Paysafecard
Example of how the seller is required to transmit alleged fees via Paysafecard

If the victim wants to back out of the deal beforehand, the buyer may threaten to report them to the police, as the amount is already with a service provider and the purchase can no longer be stopped. This increases the pressure put on the victim.

Common to both of these scenarios is that the bona fide seller cannot sell their goods and also suffers a financial loss.

The unscrupulous seller

In addition to the fraudulent buyers described above, there are also adverts on classified ad platforms where the alleged seller is not interested in selling goods, but only in obtaining money from the prospective buyer.

The fraudster places legitimate-looking adverts; the interested parties who contact them are treated in a friendly manner and copies of (stolen) IDs are sent as proof of identity – all to gain the buyer’s trust.

If the buyer accepts the offer, the shipping of the goods is negotiated, and payment too, of course. The seller wants the money before shipping, and therefore informs the prospective buyer of the payment details. This may be an IBAN (bank account number) or one of the widely used online payment methods. However, these are usually either so-called ‘money mules’, who transfer the money onwards, or hacked accounts misused for this purpose.

Either way, the goods are never delivered and the victim loses their money. The channels through which previous communication took place (e.g. WhatsApp) fall silent. Sometimes the same advert is posted again later on, ready for the next interested party.

... and the Alpine valleys?

For both sellers and buyers, it is usually easiest and safest if goods can be handed over and paid for directly. Of course, this is exactly what the scammers don't want, because if the other party insists on a meeting, they have to cancel the deal.

For this reason, the fraudsters often claim to be in remote locations where comparatively few people live. It would be very time-consuming and difficult to view and collect goods in person. The aim is to prevent victims from even considering collecting or dropping off the goods. The fraudsters therefore often give Engadine mountain villages or side valleys in Valais as their place of residence.

The scammers choose the place of residence so that it is as far away as possible from the buyer so that he has no opportunity to collect the items.
The scammers choose the place of residence so that it is as far away as possible from the buyer so that he has no opportunity to collect the items.


  • Never give your credit card details if you are expecting to receive money as the seller;
  • Never pay for shipping services or fees with a payment card, the code for which is then sent by email;
  • If you suspect fraudulent intent on the part of the seller, stop communication immediately and ignore future emails;
  • If you have already given your credit card details, contact your credit card service provider immediately and have the card cancelled;
  • If you are the victim of fraud, the NCSC recommends filing a complaint with the cantonal prosecution authorities;
  • Inform the classified ad platform about the incident. The platform can block corresponding offers, buyers and sellers.

Last modification 16.01.2024

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