As the festive season looms ever closer, the Met’s e-Crime Unit (PCeU) has said that they have taken down over 2000 websites who rip off UK consumers in a number of ways.
Most of the sites were selling designer goods at ‘bargain’ prices, which turned out either to be counterfeit or non-existent.
In a statement, the PCeU said that the sites “affect thousands of unassuming customers and generate millions of pounds for the criminals behind them.”
The sites advertise goods from big brand names such as Nike, GHD, Tiffany and Ugg at cut prices. Shoppers who can’t resist the temptation are disappointed when their purchases then don’t turn up or are clearly not what they claim to be.
However, at this point the customer has already parted with their money and has no way of recouping the cash.
Police have worked closely with internet registries in order to shut down the dodgy sites.
Losing money to fake goods isn’t the only risk that consumers run, Police say. It is also likely that the criminals behind the sites will steal their credit card and banking details as well for “criminal activity elsewhere.”
DI Paul Hoare, PCeU said: “The sites suspended are registered in bulk by crime groups with the sole intention of duping consumers into parting with their money for, at best, poor quality counterfeit goods, at worst, nothing at all.”
“In the run up to Christmas the PCeU will continue to work with Nominet and other registries to disable as many such sites as possible but I would urge customers to take all precautions to ensure they buy from legitimate sites only.”
The festive season is a bumper time for legitimate retailers and cybercriminals alike.
Symantec, the makers of Norton security products say that they noticed spammers preparing for xmas as early as September.
A variety of spams and scams are already doing the rounds, such as an email that tells the sender they have a Christmas e-card which they can access by opening an attachment.
The attachment, called “Christmas Card_zip” carries a worm which can propagate across a network, stealing data as it goes and damaging systems.
Other popular scams offer huge discounts on a variety of products or loans, and then direct users to malicious websites capable of stealing credit card and bank details.
It’s vital that consumers are vigilant about what attachments they open and the sites they visit.
To protect themselves, consumers should beware of handing over their details and should always use a credit card that protects against online fraud. They should also ensure that the payment section of a site they’re shopping with uses secure payment methods.
It’s also advisable to check out a site thoroughly before making a purchase to ensure the retailer is legitimate.