Police Scotland is warning of the hidden dangers of shopping online after consumers’ details were used to set up websites selling counterfeit products.
Officers are working in partnership with the Intellectual Property Office to reinforce the need to ensure security while spending your cash online.
An animated game show based on cases investigated by Police Scotland has been developed to highlight the dangers of shopping online without taking proper steps to protect your security.
It comes after a major brand identified around 2,700 websites on the .uk network selling counterfeit items of their goods. More than 200 of these sites were registered in Scotland.
Victims had purchased the products, many believing they were genuine, and their details were then used to register websites on the .uk network. The products they had originally purchased through the internet were all from Asia.
People from right across Scotland were affected, with victims in locations ranging from Edinburgh to the Western Isles and Orkney.
Chief Superintendent John McKenzie, Head of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities, said: “As we move increasingly into a digital world, unfortunately so does serious organised crime.
“Members of our communities have unsuspectedly ended up with counterfeit products and become the ‘owners’ of criminal websites when making online purchases.
“The purchase of counterfeit products support serious organised crime groups, human trafficking and exploitation; it is not a victimless crime.”
The game show, Scam You!, will be promoted on Police Scotland’s social media channels and its website.
Officers from the Safer Communities team hope the initiative will help to ensure people carry out due diligence on websites when shopping online.
Signs to watch out for include:
Spelling and grammatical errors which can indicate a website is not genuine
The “contact us” page contains a web form online rather than any telephone or email details for the company’s headquarters
Chief Superintendent John McKenzie added: “We are committed to tackling serious organised crime and reducing the harm it causes to individuals, communities and our economy.
“The focus of Police Scotland, the Intellectual Property Office and our partners in the Scottish Anti-illicit Trade Group is on prevention and education, to raise awareness and encourage the public to recognise, reject and report illicit products.
“When shopping online, make sure your web browser and internet security is up to date.
“Check the website payment page is secure and look for the padlock in the address line before you enter any card details. Be aware, however, that some of these websites can be very sophisticated. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Matthew Cope, Deputy Director of Intellectual Property Enforcement at the Intellectual Property Office said: “It's shocking to see that personal information has been taken from consumers and used to set up websites selling counterfeit products.
“This emphasises how important it is to stay safe when shopping online and for consumers not to be tempted by the cheaper price of these products. Our advice is for consumers to take extra precautions and follow the guidance from Police Scotland on how to shop safely.
“It's been great working on the Scam You! campaign with Police Scotland and we hope it highlights the serious risks involved in buying counterfeit products online in a light hearted way.”
For advice about staying safe while shopping online, visit Getsafeonline.org