Counterfeit Christmas: Scam websites target festive shoppers

Early Christmas shoppers beware - the scam artists are here and they are targeting festive shoppers ahead of the Xmas season with counterfeit goods or gifts that simply never turn up.

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A number of sites are currently being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission (the US equivalent of the Office of Fair Trading) after British shoppers were tricked into believing they were buying from the UK.

Websites such as and are, in fact, based in the US and Brits who have snapped up bargains such as cameras or video games are suddenly finding themselves with unexpected import duties to pay.

Many received invalid warranties and were faced with massive refund fees if they tried to return goods to the bogus vendors.

Though Trading Standards are closing down some sites, more quickly reappear. According to the consumer watchdog, Ugg boots, ghd hair straighteners and Tiffany's jewellery are among the most common counterfeits found online.

And it's not just the disappointment of receiving cheap alternatives that is causing concern.

Richard Webb, of Trading Standards, told the Daily Mail: "Fake electrical goods can cause fires and electrocution. People have been badly burnt after using fake hair straighteners."

However, spotting the good websites from the bad and the ugly isn't easy. Many go to great lengths to ensure that they appear genuine and professional, with security symbols and warnings aplenty.

But there are tell-tale signs that can help you to spot web trickery. Often these bogus sites will offer discounts of 10 or 20 per cent to encourage bargain hunters.

Those that do not reveal a postal address or telephone number should generally be avoided and never pay for anything via Western Union or bank transfer, say the experts.

At least if you are paying with a credit card, you may be covered by your provider.

Tony Neate, from, added: "Always remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Before you use a website for the first time, search on forums to see if anyone has experienced problems with the site.

"Be on your guard when shopping online, and if something doesn't feel right, don't use it."

Have you been the victim of a bogus website? Let us know below...