If you're thinking of buying those designer-name luxury whatevers you see in your Facebook ads, think again — a mid-November study published by two cybersecurity researchers suggests that almost a quarter of all luxury fashion goods offered for sale in Facebook ads are counterfeit.
Researchers Andrea Stroppa and Agostino Specchiarello set up a dozen dummy Facebook accounts, to collect random samplings of ads. Stroppa and Specchiarello programmed bots to collect over a thousand different ads, which the two researchers then manually analyzed.
Those sites were set up using various techniques to trick visitors, according to the researchers. They often had legitimate looking URLs, such as www.rayban-ireland.com, and even included fake logos of security and payment system companies.
Many of those domains, according to the research, were registered in China, and their apparent owners used Chinese email accounts. And while it's impossible to prove these sites are run by Chinese organizations, the researchers wrote, there are various clues pointing in that direction.
In all fairness, Facebook is hardly unique in having this problem. Google removes hundreds of millions of “bad ads” every year, and that's in addition to ad-free “bad sites.”
An Uggly problem
This website frequently hears complaints from readers who thought they'd found a bargain price on luxury items, but only found themsleves scammed. Last year, we heard from a woman who'd found an entire website selling nothing but Ugg boots at roughly half the price of regular Ugg stores – but she only received a pair of shoddily made counterfeit boots that weren't even in the color or size she ordered.
That particular scammy website was shut down via court order the day after we published our story about it. And the website's Chinese operators might have needed up to ten seconds before opening another website under a different name, using the same graphics to peddle the same low-quality counterfeits.
Here is an unpleasant but unavoidable truth you must understand to avoid being scammed: for certain specific brand-name items, including but not limited to the current high-demand newest-generation smartphone, or this season's high-demand luxury-label clothing or fashion item, it's pretty much impossible for you to find them at a legitimate bargain price in time for Christmas or Hanukkah this year.
See an ad promising you a new iPhone 6 for half-price or less? Fake. That website selling gorgeous designer-name bridal gowns at rock-bottom prices? Scam. If you respond to these ads, you'll either spend money and receive nothing in return, or spend money and receive a poor-quality counterfeit item in return.