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Shoppers urged to avoid cutting costs with counterfeits this Mother’s Day

  • Common counterfeited gifts put people at risk of rashes and burns from harmful chemicals
  • 38,000 counterfeit websites taken down by City of London Police unit
  • Counterfeit websites steal victims’ identities to set up additional fraudulent websites

Mother’s Day shoppers are running the risk of injury and identity theft when purchasing cheaper gifts from counterfeit websites, say police.

The warning comes from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) which, has suspended approximately 38,000 counterfeit websites, since its launch in September 2013.

With Mother's Day gifts such as jewellery, handbags and fragrances being purchased online, officers are reminding consumers to take simple steps to help them identify counterfeit websites. These gifts are some of the most commonly counterfeited items, leaving victims out of pocket and with sub-standard, often harmful products. Fake make up and perfumes can contain chemicals that cause swelling, rashes and burns.

Detectives are also warning the public about the consequences of providing personal details to online criminals who then use them to commit fraud such as registering counterfeit websites. Victims of identity theft have also been identified from these sites, and officers are seeking to warn these people to offer advice and support.

In 2017, PIPCU launched ‘There’s More at Stake when it’s a Fake’, a campaign to raise awareness of the risk of identity crime when people buy counterfeit goods. In one case, officers from PIPCU established that one victim had purchased goods from a counterfeit website. He then had his identity used by online criminals to create a further 354 counterfeit websites in a twelve month period. Officers suspended all the sites and immediately informed the victim that their details had been used. The victim had been unaware of this until the police made contact with him.

Detective Chief Inspector Teresa Russell of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit said: “Mother’s Day gifts are prime examples of the most common items we see getting counterfeited. Whether it’s perfume, make up, jewellery or clothes, counterfeit gifts may be cheaper but they come at a cost with the risk of harmful chemicals and poor quality.

“Fake make up and perfume can contain harmful chemicals and even rat droppings that cause swelling, rashes and burns. Purchasing counterfeit goods online often results in your personal details being used to set up new fraudulent websites.

“Treat your mum to something legitimate from a reputable seller. Don’t be tight, treat mum right!”

Individuals or businesses who have fallen victim to a fraud facilitated by identity crime should report to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk .

How to identify a counterfeit website:

  • Check the website for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
  • Check the images - Usually on counterfeit web pages they will fail to load or take a substantial amount of time to resolve.
  • Images on counterfeit sites will have been copied and are usually edited to fit into certain website templates. Therefore pictures may not look proportionate or have high resolution as they have been stretched or reedited.
  • Check the consistency of the fonts appearing throughout the website - on a counterfeit site they may not be all the same and will not have a professional finish.
  • Be aware that hyperlinks to associated content on a counterfeit website will fail to work – they are just cosmetic.
  • Counterfeit websites sometimes use security authentication to show give the illicit website and “air of authenticity.”
  • Be wary of the cost of counterfeit goods – Prices will be substantially cheaper that the original, with 50-80% discounts.
  • Counterfeit sites may claim to be official online outlet stores – Many websites claim that they have heavily discounted prices as they are outlets associated with the relevant retail brand or service. It is worth noting that many luxury brands do not have outlet stores online and that prices will be sold without substantial mark down prices.
  • Checking the WHOIS (registry data) will provide you with details of who registered the website in question - http://whois.icann.org/en

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