The Metropolitan Police have acted on consumer group tip-offs to freeze 1,219 websites purporting to offer designer goods, but which were simply scams.
Customers would place and pay for orders, then usually receive nothing. More than a third of the sites claimed to be selling the popular Ugg boots.
The sites all sported a 'co.uk' prefix, leading customers to believe they were buying from British merchants, but in truth they were controlled from abroad. If customers received any goods at all, they were counterfeits.
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But the biggest problem was by disclosing details they opened themselves to the risk of credit card theft and identity theft.
Operation Papworth takes off
The move by the Met, known as Operation Papworth, was designed to clamp down on the misuse of UK domain names. It's been described as the biggest 'de-registration' of scam sites to date in the world.
As well as Ugg boots, the scammers were also advertising GHD hair straighteners, clothing by Vivienne Westwood, jewellery by Links of London, and more.
Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, head of the police's e-crime unit, told the Independent: "Fraudsters target the victim's desire to buy designer goods at reduced prices, particularly at this time of year.
"The risk begins when your desire to purchase blinds your judgment or leads you to illegal websites."
The police worked with Consumer Direct, Trading Standards, and the Office of Fair Trading to identify the sites, most of which were actually registered in Asia.
Anyone who has been a victim of one of these sites should contact Consumer Direct, or try to obtain a refund from their credit card company.
Via The Age