Mother's Day shoppers warned to steer clear of counterfeit websites

Mother's Day shoppers tempted to use counterfeit websites to buy goods more cheaply run the risk of injury and identity theft, police have warned.

The City of London Police's Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) said it has suspended around 38,000 counterfeit websites since its launch in September 2013.

Gifts typically bought for Mother's Day such as jewellery, handbags and perfume are some of the most commonly counterfeited items.

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They leave victims out of pocket and with sub-standard, often harmful products, detectives warned.

Fake make-up and perfumes can contain chemicals that cause swelling, rashes and burns.

Someone buying fake goods online also runs the risk of online criminals using their personal details to commit identity theft and use their details to register counterfeit websites.

Last year PIPCU launched a campaign called There's More at Stake when it's a Fake to raise awareness of the risk of identity crime when people buy counterfeit goods.

In one case someone buying goods from a counterfeit website then had his identity used by online criminals to create a further 354 counterfeit websites in a 12-month period, police said.

Officers suspended all the sites but the victim had been unaware until the police made contact with him.

Detective Chief Inspector Teresa Russell of PIPCU said: "Mother's Day gifts are prime examples of the most common items we see getting counterfeited.

"Whether it's perfume, make-up, jewellery or clothes, counterfeit gifts may be cheaper but they come at a cost, with the risk of harmful chemicals and poor quality.

"Fake make-up and perfume can contain harmful chemicals and even rat droppings that cause swelling, rashes and burns.

"Purchasing counterfeit goods online often results in your personal details being used to set up new fraudulent websites.

"Treat your mum to something legitimate from a reputable seller. Don't be tight, treat mum right!"

Suspected frauds can be reported to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at

Here are tips from the police on how to identify a counterfeit website:

1. Check the website for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

2. Check the images - counterfeit web pages may fail to load or take a substantial amount of time to resolve.

3. Images on counterfeit sites will have been copied and are usually edited to fit into certain website templates. Pictures may not look proportionate or have high resolution as they have been stretched or re-edited.

4. On a counterfeit site fonts may not be all the same and may not have a professional finish.

5. Hyperlinks to associated content on a counterfeit website may fail to work - they are just cosmetic.

6. Counterfeit websites sometimes use security authentication to give an air of authenticity.

7. Prices for counterfeit goods are often substantially cheaper than the original, with discounts of 50% to 80%.

8. Counterfeit websites may claim to be official online outlet stores. However, many luxury brands do not have outlet stores online.