Police close scam websites targeting Christmas shoppers

Police have closed hundreds of websites conning shoppers hoping to buy fashionable Ugg boots, officers said today.

During recent months foreign websites offering cut-price Uggs have sprouted up across the web but when people pay they receive fakes – or nothing.

Acting on tip-offs from consumer groups, the Metropolitan Police announced it had frozen 1,219 websites offering the boots and fakes of other designer brands such as Tiffany jewellery and Links of London.

Detectives said the perpetrators of the frauds were unlikely to be traced given they had set up the sites using anonymous emails and fake identification.

Criminal gangs in Asia are believed to make millions of pounds from the fraud and complaints about fake Ugg boots have tripled in the past 12 months. More than 20,000 counterfeit pairs have been seized by Customs officers.

A third of the fake websites were thought to have been advertising Ugg boots, legally made by UGG in Australia.

As well as losing their money, consumers also risked further mis-use of their credit card details.

Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, head of the police’s e-crime unit, said the scam homed in on particularly desirable consumer goods. “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,” he said.

He warned: “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Consumer Direct, Trading Standards, and the Office of Fair Trading helped officers identify the fraudulent websites.

The vast majority were registered from Asia, despite their UK domain names, mostly using false or misleading details. Police said it was “almost impossible” for victims to complain about poor quality, counterfeited items or undelivered goods.

The latest action, codenamed Operation Papworth, speedily removed the sites with the help of Nominet, the body responsible for domain names in the UK.

Lesley Cowley, chief executive of Nominet, said: “We received clear instructions from the Police E-Crimes Unit to take down the .co.uk domain names, which have been under investigation for criminal activity. We worked closely with the police and our registrars to quickly carry out the instruction to shut down access to these sites.

“The vast majority of .co.uk domains are legitimate, but where there are investigations about improper or illegal activity, we work with law enforcement bodies such as the Metropolitan Police to help identify and then limit the number of illegal or fake websites.”

The Met advised anyone who was ripped off by the sites to contact Consumer Direct. Customers may be able to obtain refunds from credit card companies.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable