PIPCU shutters 2,000 websites in six weeks

Fake designer T shirtsThe UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) says it has suspended more than 2,000 websites selling fake luxury goods since the New Year.

The websites were offering high-end fashion brands Burberry, Longchamp, Abercrombie and Oakley and jewellery designers Tiffany & Co and Thomas Sabo, but the goods supplied were cheap and inferior counterfeits.

They were peddling a wide range of items including clothes, handbags, sunglasses, shoes and jewellery - in some cases exposing customers to computer viruses and malware - and were taken down thanks to cooperation between PIPCU and brand owners, brand protection organisations and Internet registrars.

The latest block of takedowns was part of the ongoing Operation Ashiko initiative, which has taken almost 5,500 websites offline since it was first launched in October 2013.

"Many sites claim to be selling genuine items, but in fact they are just cheap imitations," warned PIPCU head Detective Chief Inspector Danny Medleycott.

"In some cases, such as with electrical items, these products can be extremely dangerous as they aren't subjected to the vigorous safety checks that legit items are."

The criminals behind these websites will often take advantage of your personal details, he added, and people may find their card has been compromised and used for other fraudulent scams.

Commenting on the development, Haydn Simpson, head of brand protection at NetNames, said: "The luxury goods sector is the industry where counterfeit detection and enforcement on the Internet is most developed. However, it is arguably also the most at risk sector, with a fifth (20 per cent) of Brits in a recent NetNames poll stating that they would buy their partner a counterfeit handbag or purse."
Fraudsters are taking advantage of the rise in online shopping by employing increasingly sophisticated tactics to trick shoppers into buying counterfeit products - particularly on marketplace websites and even on social media channels.

"What’s more, the Internet is fast becoming the first port of call for those shoppers looking to buy counterfeits, with 40 per cent of Brits in NetNames’ poll saying they would turn to online channels - including web search engines, marketplace sites and social media - to source and purchase fake products," said Simpson.

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