According to UK police reports, over two thousand websites selling counterfeit luxury goods have been shut down since the beginning of the year.
Fake products included fashion from high-end labels such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Burberry and Longchamp, as well as designer jewellery from Tiffany & Co.
The online raids were executed as a collaborative effort between brand-protection groups and internet registries.
“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 […] these products can be extremely dangerous as they aren’t subjected to the vigorous safety checks that legitimate items are,” said detective chief inspector Danny Medlycott.
The City of London Police and its specialist Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) warned that the sites trading in these illegal goods could also contain harmful malware.
“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 Medlycott.
He added that the websites themselves can be concealing malicious software. “The sites themselves can […] be harmful, as they contain […] viruses that can infect your computer.
“If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.” Meddlycott continued to warn online consumers that those products displaying huge discounts were “often a tell-tale sign that something isn’t right.”
Since its formation in October 2013, the police operation Ashiko has closed down nearly 5,500 sites selling counterfeit designer clothes, handbags, and accessories.
The police unit has also issued advice to consumers shopping online, urging shoppers to check spelling and grammar, URLs and postal addresses which may indicate clues of illicit trading.