On­line shop­pers duped by ads for fake lux­ury gear

Sunday Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN HAY­WARD Con­sumer Cor­re­spon­dent

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

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