Fake shops are making a killing from counterfeit trainers


Online shopping has surged since lockdown started in March. Many of us, looking to be healthier, have headed online for sports equipment and a number of sportswear retailers have reported booming online sales. John Lewis recorded a 72% increase in total sports shoe sales, while Adidas and Puma have both seen an increase in ecommerce revenue.

Shoppers browsing online for the best deals, however, need to take care, as many people would be surprised at the scale of fake shops. Each day we find new fake shops designed to entice shoppers away from bona fide outlets, as many brands have yet to find effective countermeasures.

Counterfeit shoes, clothing and other accessories are estimated to lose the industry more than €26 billion each year in the EU alone, while the loss due to all online counterfeiting is estimated at $323 billion a year. The OECD estimated that over 3% of all imports worldwide are counterfeit.

Traditionally fake shops claim to sell luxury consumer goods at highly discounted prices. We have seen fake shops using at least three different models:

  1. Payment is accepted, but no goods are delivered.
  2. At the end of the checkout process, an error message is displayed such as “Out of Stock” and no transaction occurs. This is equivalent to a phishing attack, as the fake shop has the consumer’s credentials.
  3. Payment is accepted, and goods are delivered. The quality of goods varies between junk and identical to the bona fide item.

Trainers are the most counterfeited goods

We are currently block around 75,000 fake shops in our extension and apps. Of these, roughly half target a specific brand, such as Nike or Adidas. About 70% of the fake shops selling branded goods sell shoes, predominantly trainers.

Corroborating this, European customs authorities handle more cases of counterfeit sports shoes than any other type of product.

Breakdown of fake shop industries

Fake shops by type of goods sold

Eight of the top ten brands we find on fake shops are primarily footwear companies, with Nike and Adidas by far the most common. Other big targets for counterfeiters include Ray-Ban and Louis Vuitton, both of whom are subject to highly specific campaigns.

An Adidas fake shop

An Adidas fake shop

How many people visit counterfeiters’ shops?

Fake shops use analytics software to keep track of website visits just like bona fide websites. The analytics dashboards of fake shops are sometimes publicly accessible, and they tell us that fake shops get a lot of visitors

A graph showing unique visitors to a fake shop campaign

Unique visitors to a single fake shop campaign

One fake shop campaign received 125,000 unique visitors in May, up from a standing start in December, and tripling since the start of lockdown. A majority of visitors arrive after finding the sites in their google search results. However, fake shops are also be promoted on social media and similar platforms. The shops in this campaign sell products purportedly from a huge array of brands, including Skechers, Steve Madden, Ecco, Supreme and The North Face. Tens of thousands of such shops are active at any given time.

Visitors come to these sites from all around the world, although 77% are from European countries. The website operators themselves are likely Chinese, as they use a Chinese analytics service, although the websites are in many different languages and currencies.

What can I do to avoid shopping on a fake shop?

Our extensions and apps block access to all of the fake shops that we find and validate. You can use our extension for free, and our apps come from as little as £5 a year.

Additionally, the products of some high quality brands, such as Rolex, Coach and Louis Vuitton, are available only at authorised retailers. For these brands, make sure you look up the retailer you are buying from on the brand’s website.

When purchasing other products, keep a look out for suspicious websites. Some common characteristics of fake shops include:

  1. Prices that are too good to be true
  2. No HTTPS or Certificate issued by a free SSL provider
  3. Fake security seals and accreditations
  4. No, or implausible, contact information

How can I protect our business against counterfeit shops?

Netcraft offers a comprehensive countermeasures service covering detection and takedown of fake shops. In the past three months, we’ve taken down in excess of 25,000 fake shops.

Additionally, we can supply a feed of fake shops targeting your business so that your own Apps can block access to the fake shops on devices that have your app installed.

Netcraft is the world’s largest provider of cybercrime countermeasures, providing countermeasures against some seventy five different types of cybercrime for many of the world’s largest companies.

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