Why You Should Never Use Your Credit Card On These Websites

May 14, 2024 5:29 am
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A new warning just might stop you entering your credit card details into certain websites before you make a very costly mistake—but for nearly a million people, it’s already too late…

Here’s a timely reminder that if it looks too good to be true it usually is, especially when it comes to unbelievable discounts on websites you’ve suddenly come across when searching for a discount.

So says an alarming new report from security researchers at SRL, which warns that more than 850,000 people have been defrauded in the US and Europe by a network of more than 20,000 websites that were active as of last month. “The network has processed more than one million orders since 2021,” the team says, “with an estimated aggregate order volume exceeding USD 50 million.”

The Guardian conducted an investigation into this network, described as “one of world’s ‘largest online scams,’ alongside Die Zeit and Le Monde; the operation, is says, is on an “industrial scale… tens of thousands of fake web shops offering discounted goods from Dior, Nike, Lacoste, Hugo Boss, Versace and Prada, as well as many other premium brands.”

The websites clearly “have no connection to the brands they claim to sell,” and unsurprisingly almost no goods seem to have ever shipped—and where they do ship, they’re counterfeit. But that hasn’t stopped bargain hunters in their hundreds of thousands from being duped.

According to SRL, the websites stole credit card details and also harvested personal details to help facilitate more expansive fraudulent activities. “Credit card data is harvested through a spoofed payment interface. The victim is then shown an error message and forwarded to a functioning payment gateway, which initiates a payment.”

The research team attribute the campaign to a network out of China. “A core team is responsible for infrastructure management, while a decentralized network of franchisees operates fraudulent shops.”

The team operates a frighteningly sophisticated franchise scheme, with limited activities left to the ringleaders themselves. “Franchisees manage day-to-day operations of fake shops running on this shared infrastructure.”

While the network is China based, “most of their servers are hosted in the United States,” which makes it less likely to spook consumers. The group plays an ongoing game of cat and mouse, as fake stores are spotted and taken down. “Today, extensive orchestration capabilities enable BogusBazaar to quickly deploy new webshops or rotate payment pages and domains in response to take-downs.”

There is no published list of the 20,000+ websites to avoid—and even those sites are part of a much longer list of more than 70,000 domains entangled in this campaign. As such it is critical that consumers do not get lulled into this fraudulent spider’s web.

The advice is clear—do not blindly browse unknown websites while bargain hunting for particular luxury goods, do not give your credit card details to a shop you are not familiar with unless it cannot be referenced or is a household name. And even then, check the URL carefully and try to navigate back using a generic brand search. And finally, if you must shop on such stores, run a quick search to check the domain itself for any reports of fraud and check to see if there are any reviews.

Critically, this fraudulent network remains active—each spoofed site is relatively modest in scale and passes under the radar. There will be people falling victim to this scam today.

Do not become one of them…

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