Online shoppers duped by ads for fake luxury gear
CROOKS flogging fake luxury brands are tapping a new market – by paying to advertise on mobile social media sites.
The sponsored posts appear in the feeds of users whose online search histories show an interest in designer clothes or expensive watches.
And fraud experts warn that the gangs behind them – often based in Eastern Europe and China – are feeding the money they rake in back into guns, drugs and prostitution.
Sites including Instagram are paid to carry the ads for luxury brands ranging from Rolex watches to Moncler coats.
Appearing alongside reputable firms, the adverts feature a “shop now” link. But the goods themselves are either counterfeit – or never arrive at all.
After being alerted by the Sunday Mirror, the picture-sharing site launched an internal inquiry, removing those we brought to its attention.
A victim said: “I don’t know how they get away with buying ads on Instagram. It’s the equivalent of a crook taking an ad in the middle of Coronation Street.”
High-end fashion chain Moncler, whose coats can cost more than £1,000, is among those targeted by the scams. Two ads on Instagram copied the firm’s official website, claiming to be a UK-based outlet store.
Its pages of cut-price deals included £600 coats for £180. We found others claiming to sell Rolex and Tag Heuer watches with hundreds of pounds off.
The victim we spoke to, from Halifax, West Yorks, said he realised the site he bought from was fake when the invoice came through – from China.
He said: “I was angry but I thought, ‘I’ll wait for the coat and then send it back for a refund’. That was weeks ago and I’ve received nothing.”
Instagram chiefs told us they have staff working round-the-clock to root out the scams.
They added: “We invest significant resources in automated and manual tools to enforce our ad policies.
“While these are effective at identifying and removing the vast majority before they run, no system is perfect.”
A crackdown by trading standards chiefs, working with social media sites, has removed thousands of fake pages.
Mike Andrews, of the national eCrime Team, said: “There are thousands of these on social media but we are working hard to close them down.
“People might think they are buying a bargain from a chap down the road who has some goods to sell. But ultimately the people behind shipping these goods in bulk are organised gangs.
“The money filters through to activities like prostitution, guns and drugs.”
YOU’VE BEEN AD Fake offer for Moncler