Counterfeit Online Stores — Are Brand Owners Fighting a Losing Battle?

Last month the Dutch Consumer Association shut down 850 counterfeit eCommerce websites to protect Dutch online shoppers from buying fake products. It is the latest step in the fight against cybercriminals who try to trick the online consumer. Last year, Chinese retailer Alibaba closed 240.000 fake online stores in this ongoing battle. Despite these continuing shutdowns of criminals who try to abuse online stores, the problem seems to persist. Multiple studies show that a third of all online shoppers receive a fake product after their order.

This high percentages of fakes on the web may seem like a lot, but it isn’t all that surprising. Research by Dataprovider shows that there are currently almost 2 million counterfeit online stores. These stores can be found all around the world, but are most prevalent in:

1. United States (700.000)

2. Canada (330.000)

3. Germany (110.000)

A Growing Problem

In spite of recent closures by authorities, brands, and big names in eCommerce such as Alibaba and Amazon, the number of fake online stores keeps on growing. In Dataprovider’s database, we see a rise in the number of such websites each month. Only this year, there were almost 140.000 counterfeit online stores added to the Internet in January. There was a small drop with only 65.000 fake sites found in February, but the number peaked again in March with the detection of over 145.000 fraudulent eCommerce platforms.

Picture by Hunter Johnson on Unsplash

The Quick Rise

These numbers show that those who are trying to fight websites that sell counterfeit products have started a battle that almost can’t be won. The amount of online stores opened by cybercriminals is increasing and it only takes them hours to create one. Once a bad actor has built a layout and design, they can simply copy these onto new domains that they buy for very little money. Their practices create a flood of additional fraudulent websites each day.

Shop Safely

All in all, you have to make an effort if you want to keep yourself from buying fake products online. To keep your online shopping as secure and legitimate as possible, you can look out for the following signs:

1. Once you have found an online store that sells the product you want, always check the product with the one on the original site. Pay special attention to small details, such as the model number and whether the logo is in the right place.

2. Look at the ratings and reviews of the product on the online store that you want to buy from. Cybercriminals can fake these reviews of course, but you can usually detect those tricks by looking for similar reviews or spelling mistakes.

3. Check the return policy to make sure that you can return the product if it isn’t up to your standard. The transparent return policy and reliable contact details are a telling sign that you are dealing with a salesperson who wants to keep their customers satisfied and will most likely deliver the right product.

4. Don’t trust heavy discounts, because something that looks too good to be true probably is. A product sold for a price that is 60 or 70 percent less than the original price, is unlikely to be a real offer. After all, why would the seller take a loss on the product by selling it to you for that little money?

Our Free Tool

If you are not sure whether you can detect fake online stores on your own, or would like a second opinion on a store that you want to buy from: try out our free Chrome Extension. This extension has been developed to detect fake online stores and will give you a warning as soon as you land on a page that you shouldn’t trust.

If you encounter a fake online store while shopping on the web, you can do your part in helping to take that store down. Reach out to your national Customer Association, such as the Federal Trade Association in the United States. Once an online store receives enough complaints, these organizations will take up the matter and see if the store can be taken offline.

For more information on Dataprovider’s detection of fake online stores or other data in our database, reach out to info@dataprovider.com.