Online shoppers risk identity theft when buying fakes

UK police say that people buying fake goods online risk having their identities stolen and used to set up fraudulent websites.

The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has started a public awareness campaign – There’s more at stake when it’s a fake – to highlight the problem. It notes that out of 28,000 websites taken down for selling counterfeits since PIPCU started operations in 2014, 4,000 were set up using stolen identities.

“Action Fraud has received over 15,000 reports linked to identity crime in the last year (April 2016 – March 2017) which shows the extent of the growing problem.” said PIPCU.

“In addition, 400 victims have been contacted by PIPCU in the last two years to inform them that their identity is believed to have been stolen and open websites in their name after they had previously purchased counterfeit items online.”

The result of that could be a lengthy battle to regain control over someone’s identity and negative impacts on credit score and the chance of getting credit in future – aside from the emotional distress suffered by victims.

“Not only can you lose your identity when buying counterfeits, you can also end up buying goods which are unsafe, according to PIPCU, which is also urging online shoppers to be aware that counterfeit goods are often made using cheap materials that can pose a public safety threat.

According to the campaign, consumers should take the following step to prevent identity theft when purchasing goods online:

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 website. The spelling and grammar on the website and of the URL will look suspicious, as often the people behind these sites will 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 and 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.

Ensure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment. Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date.

Ask the trader if there is a returns policy or guarantee. Most rogue traders will not offer this.

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