News item

PIPCU suspends more than 2,000 illegal websites since New Year

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has suspended more than 2,000 websites selling fake luxury goods since the New Year.

The sites disrupted by the City of London Police unit were selling well-known high end goods including fashion brands Burberry, Longchamp, Abercrombie and Oakley and jewellery designers Tiffany & Co and Thomas Sabo. However, the items being sold were far from the desired brands that were advertised and were in fact just cheap and inferior counterfeits. The websites sold a wide range of items from the luxury brands including clothes, handbags, sunglasses, shoes and jewellery.

The action taken by PIPCU was part of Operation Ashiko, an initiative in partnership with a number of brands, brand protection organisations and internet registries to disrupt websites selling counterfeit goods to unsuspecting customers.

PIPCU is warning consumers to be aware of the risks of buying fake goods online. Counterfeits are often bad quality and can be potentially dangerous. The websites themselves can also be unsafe; they more often than not contain harmful viruses and malware and your personal information is also at risk of being compromised. 

Detective Chief Inspector and Head of PIPCU, Danny Medlycott said: “The general rule is if it looks too good to be true then it probably is; heavily discounted products are often a tell tale sign that something isn't right.

“When shopping online you need to be extremely vigilant that you are not misled into buying fakes. Many sites claim to be selling genuine items, but in fact they are just cheap imitations. 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, such as financial information and so people may find their card has been compromised and used for other fraudulent scams. The sites themselves can also be harmful, as they contain malware and viruses that can infect your computer.”

Since the launch of Operation Ashiko in October 2013, close to 5,500 websites selling fake goods have been suspended by the unit and a number of brands have seen a significant decrease in the number of these sites in the UK.

Oliver Guimaraes, Managing Director of globaleyez, a brand protection company who support Thomas Sabo in the infringing domain area said “Since the start of Operation Ashiko we have seen a tremendous decrease in the number of websites selling fake Thomas Sabo products. This is excellent news for both the consumer and the brand and all down to the great work of PIPCU.”

To ensure you do not become a victim of counterfeit fraud follow PIPCU’s top tips below:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 change the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?.
  5. Ensure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment.
  6. Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date. Regularly update your internet browser when a new patch-security update is released.
  7. Don’t access links in unsolicited emails, always type in the website address or use a search engine to find a site.
  8. Ask the trader if there is a returns policy or guarantee. Most rogue traders will not offer this.
  9. If you are not sure whether the items are genuine, do not enter your payment details – it is not worth the risk.
  10. Watch out for pop-ups appearing asking you to confirm your card details before you are on the payment stage. Never enter your PIN number online.

If you have unknowingly bought counterfeit goods, you can report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk. If you suspect someone is selling counterfeit goods you can report it anonymously to Crimestoppers at www.crimestoppers-uk.org/ or on 0800 555 111.

Notes to editors
PIPCU is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, the National Policing Lead for Fraud. It is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.

The operationally independent unit launched in September 2013 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) until June 2015. It was recently announced that PIPCU will receive a further £3 million from the IPO to fund the unit up to 2017.
 
DATE: 13 February 2015