Fraudsters focus on highly requested products online


    - by Stuart Fuller -

    For a number of weeks a number of online store have been selling hard-to-find tech and gadgets at discounted prices.

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    At a time where the global economy is teetering on the edge of another deep recession, consumers have been driven to look for bargains online and that in itself has fuelled the growing problem of online fraud.

    As many of us are still house-bound, the demand for some of the newest technology and gadgets has risen. With many of the most popular items such as the Fortnite version for PlayStation 4, the Xiaomi E-Scooter, Oculus VR headsets and the Reebok cross trainers either unavailable or being sold at a significant premium, a handful of websites appear to have been at the centre of a simple scam that has played on the unquenching thirst for buying these products at all costs.

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    The number of websites offering these and other popular products for sale that have now been shut down by the authorities or the hosting providers continues to grow as more and more consumer complaints come to light. Due to the popularity of the websites, thanks to the low prices for in demand items, some appeared.

    Domain registration as indicator for fraudulent websites

    In three of the cases we have looked at, the domain names were registered in the last few weeks, with the ownership details hidden behind a proxy registrant. This is often a sure-fire way of spotting a website that has been set up simply to defraud consumers. Whilst the websites included items that made them appear genuine and trustworthy such using SSL certificates, claims to support major payment methods including PayPal and listing what appears to be genuine company registration details. In one of the cases, the fraudsters used a genuine company, with the same initials, to back up their claims of legitimacy which only came to light when the firm with inundated with complaints.

    As if these details weren’t enough to give the website legitimacy, the products they were reputed to offer had been appearing within the Google Shopping listings at the top of the search results for the product, which to many consumers would give them even more authenticity. The Google Shopping feature works in a similar way to AdWords, allowing businesses to ad prices and prices of products based on the familiar Google bidding system.

    So if someone is searching for a Xiamoi E-Scooter, the results that will be shown at the top of the search results page will be based on an algorithm that will include the keyword match as well as the value of the “bid” of the retailer. This approach not only gives some credibility to the websites listed but once again underlines that many scammers use exactly the same “marketing” and customer acquisition tactics as genuine businesses.

    Personal and financial data need to be protected

    Now, more than ever consumers need to be mindful to check the details of website owners that are not familiar to themselves before they hand over personal and financial details. Unfortunately, it is not just the consumers hard-earned cash that is valuable to these website owners – personal details such as being asked to set up an account password or sharing payment details could be sold on to other criminal organisations who would then target the individuals through phishing or social engineering attacks.

    If you are tempted to buy any products online which appear to be a bargain from a retailer than you are not familiar with, check the following three facts before to submit any personal or financial details.

    1. When was the domain name registered? Use a tool such as and look at the registration date. If it is recent then the alarm bells should be ringing.
    2. Is the website protected by encryption which is designed to keep any personal or financial details secure?In the corner of the browser bar there should be a SSL padlock – click on that and again check when it was set up.
    3. Quite simply, if the deal looks too good to be true then ask yourself why.It’s highly unusual for any online retailers to be stocking hard to find items when the major online stores, who have the significant buying power, are sold out.

    The cases that have hit the headlines this week will by no means be the last we see where consumers have been duped. However, we can all play our part in trying to reduce the risk and ensuring that our collective online experience is one of reward rather than risk.

    Brand owners should use monitoring services to be alerted when their products are counterfeited and offered online