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Shoppers warned to avoid fake electricals this Father’s Day

• Counterfeited electrical gifts put people at risk of shocks and fire
• 46,000 counterfeit websites taken down by City of London Police unit
• Counterfeit websites steal victims’ identities to set up additional fraudulent websites

Father’s Day shoppers are at risk of injury and identity theft when purchasing cheaper electricals from counterfeit websites, say police.

The warning comes from the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) which has suspended approximately 46,000 counterfeit websites, since its launch in September 2013. Officers are concerned that shoppers looking for a last minute deal might be caught out by counterfeit fraudsters, particularly those offering cheap electricals.

Electrical Safety First, the UK’s leading charity on electrical safety, has found that 1 in 3 people have fallen victim to counterfeit goods online. As a result, officers are reminding consumers to take simple steps to help them identify counterfeit websites. Fake electricals can cause shocks and fires, putting users at risk of lasting burns. For example, genuine branded phone chargers have 60+ components where as the average fake has less than half that amount.

Detectives are also warning the public about the consequences of providing personal details when purchasing counterfeit electricals. Online criminals can use banking and personal information to commit fraud such as registering counterfeit websites in their victim’s names. Victims of identity theft have 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 Inspector Nick Court of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit said: “Father’s Day gifts are prime examples of the harm that can be caused by fake electricals. Counterfeit gifts may be cheaper but they come at a cost with the risk of burns and shocks.
“Purchasing counterfeit goods online also often results in your personal details being used to set up new fraudulent websites.
“Treat your dad to something legitimate from a reputable seller. Don’t be tight, treat dad right!”

Phil Buckle, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First said: “We were appalled to discover how easy it is to buy dangerous electrical goods, after our recent investigation found one in three UK adults have accidently bought a fake electrical item online. Counterfeit appliances are often very sophisticated and sellers will do whatever it takes to convince people that products are legitimate, including fake safety labels and believable images. As a father myself, I would hate to think of my children being conned out of money by online criminals. We welcome the great work by the City of London Police and support them in tackling the threat posed by fake electrical goods online.”

Dr Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright and Enforcement, Intellectual Property Office said: “The dangers around buying fake electrical goods are alarming, with potentially shocking implications to public safety.

"We urge families who are buying electrical goods ahead of Father’s Day to take extra care when shopping online. Follow the advice from PIPCU on how to spot a counterfeit website to avoid any harm coming to your family. For the sake of a bargain, the risk isn’t worth it.”

Top tips to help you avoid buying counterfeit goods

• Trust your instincts – if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Legitimate designer items are rarely discounted, so do not rush and be fooled into believing you are getting a good deal.
• Check the spelling and grammar on the website and of the URL – often the people behind these sites do not pay a lot of attention or care to this detail. Fraudsters may also try to deceive you by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address.
• Look to see where the trader is based and whether they provide a postal address – just because the web address has ‘uk’ do not assume the seller is based in the UK. If there is no address supplied or there is just a PO Box or email, be wary.
• Only deal with reputable sellers - only use sites you know or ones that have been recommended to you. If you have not bought from the seller before, do your research and check online reviews. People will often turn to forums and blogs to warn others of fake sites. If you are buying an item online you can check to see if the website is a legitimate stockist by visiting www.brand-i.org
• Ensure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment.
• Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date. Regularly update your internet browser when a new patch-security update is released.
• Don’t access links in unsolicited emails, always type in the website address or use a search engine to find a site.
• Ask the trader if there is a returns policy or guarantee. Most rogue traders will not offer this.
• If you are not sure whether the items are genuine, do not enter your payment details – it is not worth the risk.
• Watch out for pop-ups appearing asking you to confirm your card details before you are on the payment stage. Never enter your PIN online.

What to do if you are a victim of counterfeit fraud
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.

What to do if you believe someone is selling counterfeit items
If you suspect someone to be involved in the sale or trade of counterfeit items you can report this anonymously to Crimestoppers.

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