Too good to be true? Beware of counterfeit websites while during holiday shopping

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – If you’re looking for deals this holiday season, be careful because counterfeit websites are out there claiming they have deals on hard-to-get items.

With the click of just a few keys, you can purchase just about anything online. That’s what scammers are counting on when they put up counterfeit websites, which are no mom-and-pop operations.

“Counterfeiting worldwide is estimated at $1.8 trillion a year,” said Yoav Keren, who is the CEO of BrandShield.

Keren said many of these brand counterfeiters are scammers who are part of large criminal networks.

This year, lack of merchandise caused by supply chain issues has played right into the hands of those criminals who are using numerous ways to lure you to their fake websites and phony deals.

“Social media has become a major funnel for getting people into different scam websites and other activities,” Keren said.

There are several tips to help you avoid a counterfeit website. Look for:

  • Incorrect spelling of a brand’s name in the URL  
  • Typos or grammar errors in the copy  
  • Social media messages directing you to a certain website for deals 

The most counterfeited items this year include electronics, games, fashion, and merchandise.

Brandshield found PlayStations and Nike were popular brands targeted by imposters, with suspicious domain registrations for PlayStation increasing 127 percent and Nike by 88 percent.

Counterfeit Airpod sites increased 81 percent.

Luxury items also saw a dramatic spike, with suspicious domain registrations related to Louis Vuitton and Gucci increasing significantly.

Big box retailers were also hurt by scammers. Brandshield found fake Target sites outpaced Walmart in suspicious domain registrations more than 50 to 1.

The electronic marketplace eBay saw fake sites increase 155 percent and Amazon saw a 16 percent increase in fake online sites.

Sometimes the scammers will send you a poorly made copy of a brand-name item you purchased, other times you’ll get nothing from them and just lose your cash.

“If you see an ad that interests you, always look at where does it direct you,” said Keren. “Is it going back to the original website?”

He said you should check by going back to that brand website without going through the ad that directed you to it. That will make sure you are getting the same deal. If not, it’s a scam.

Brandshield said it detects hundreds of fake websites a month.

“We can detect these things very quickly, sometimes minutes after they’re created, and very quickly take them down,” Keren said.

However, as soon as they are taken down, he said, more fakes pop up to replace them.

If you come across a counterfeit website, you can also report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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