The Spanish National Police is taking action to block various fraudulent webshops that pose as official stores while offering seemingly unbelievable bargains. These online fashion stores advertise brand-name products at prices that appear too good to be true.
Nike trainers for €20 or a Hermès handbag for €100—social media platforms were flooded with advertisements for products at rock-bottom prices during the recent holiday season. For many, the temptation to click on these ads was irresistible. Upon clicking, users were directed to webshops that appeared identical to the advertised brand. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of such a deal? Unfortunately, the products were never delivered to the buyers. The police have issued a warning about these fraudulent practices and are taking steps to block illegal websites.
Cloned websites offering bargains
The modus operandi of these fraudulent practices remains consistent: scammers clone the webshops of the brands they use as bait. However, these websites are hosted in non-EU countries (primarily on servers in the United States), making them difficult to detect at first glance. The fraudsters camouflage the domain names once the webshops are duplicated. Subsequently, they utilise payment gateways in Brazil. The paid-for product is never shipped, and the money disappears into the pockets of the scammers.
Police investigation into deceptive practices
After receiving numerous complaints from defrauded buyers, the Spanish police initiated an investigation into these illicit activities. Numerous complaints were sent to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. In many cases, not only did the scammers clone the internet domain, but they also altered the original brand name. For instance, the popular Spanish fashion brand Massimo Dutti was changed to ‘Massimo Clothing’.
Tip of the iceberg
Despite the numerous reports of such scams, authorities suspect that the actual number of fraud cases is much higher. Many people do not report such incidents to the police, often because the sums involved are relatively small. Investigators have worked together with domain registration companies to block reported websites.
Commencement during black friday
The fraudulent campaign commenced during Black Friday, a period during which scammers could operate relatively inconspicuously. Many advertisers intensify their campaigns during this time, making a fraudulent advertisement less conspicuous within an Instagram post.
Tips to avoid deception
The advice to avoid falling victim to such scams is straightforward:
- be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true.
- An internet fraud expert recommends searching for the brand on Google and accessing the product through the search engine. Many scammers operate for short periods, causing search engines not to index their pages. Therefore, content offered via search engines is more likely to be genuine.
- Authorities advise carefully examining the URL of the offered product and being wary of domain names or extensions that do not belong to the brand itself.
- Additionally, the padlock icon at the beginning of the URL indicates that the website is secure and uses HTTPS encryption.
- Furthermore, police warn that spelling errors or other unusual deviations in the content can be suspicious. Scammers often neglect details and focus solely on their scam. Therefore, poor-quality images, bad translations, and other anomalies are common indicators.
- Finally, a useful tip is to use a debit or credit card that can be easily blocked by the user or has a limited balance.
- Ultimately, the advice is simple: exercise caution and use your common sense, as cheap deals often prove to be expensive in the end.