Technology

Fake luxury goods online sites closed by police

City of London police officer Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption City of London Police's specialist piracy unit was set up in 2013

Two thousand websites selling fake luxury goods have been removed since the start of the year, UK police say.

Counterfeit goods from brands such as Burberry, Longchamp and Abercrombie & Fitch were among the products offered.

The raids were the result of a collaboration between brand-protection groups and internet registries.

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, run by City of London Police, also warned the sites could be harbouring malicious software.

"The criminals behind these websites will often take advantage of your personal details, such as financial information, and so people may find their card has been compromised and used for other fraudulent scams," said Det Ch Insp Danny Medlycott, who heads the unit.

"The sites themselves can also be harmful, as they contain malware and viruses that can infect your computer.

As a general rule, "if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is", he said.

And heavily discounted products were "often a telltale sign that something isn't right", he added.

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The current police operation, known as Ashiko, has shut nearly 5,500 websites selling fake designer clothes, handbags, sunglasses, shoes and jewellery since it launched in October.

Oliver Guimaraes, MD of Globaleyez, which helps jewellery retailer Thomas Sabo to target counterfeiting, said there had been "a tremendous decrease" in websites selling fake products.

Police also issued some guidance:

  • Check the spelling and grammar on the website, as well as the URL - people running such sites often do not pay a lot of attention to that
  • Look to see where the trader is based and whether they provide a postal address - just because the web address contains "UK", do not assume the seller is based there
  • Only deal with reputable sellers - use sites that you know or which have been recommended to you. Check online reviews if you have not bought from the seller before.
  • Check the website is a legitimate stockist by visiting brand-i.org
  • Ensure the website address begins "https", which indicates it is secure
  • Don't access links in unsolicited emails; always type in the website address or use a search engine to find a site.

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