It looks like your website. It feels like your website. It even works like your website. There’s just one problem: it’s not your website. It’s a fake, set up by cyber crooks to defraud your loyal customers by taking their money and delivering fake goods, or perhaps nothing at all. Not only does this kind of fakery have a damaging impact on your brand’s reputation, it also costs millions of dollars per year. And perhaps the most worrying thing of all is that setting up this kind of criminal enterprise is surprisingly easy to do. So what kind of solutions are there?
Fake websites: easy does it
A few years ago, setting up a realistic fake online shop required a lot of coding knowledge. Today, it’s just as easy to buy a pre-built website kit on the dark web, or to use legitimate website building tools such as Shopify to set up a fake web shop in minutes. And if it’s discovered? The creator can take it down and create a new one just as easily.
Hard to spot
But identifying such a fake site is not always simple. For example, the 2019 Webroot Threat Report¹ found that 40% of malicious URLs were found on good domains. This means that legitimate websites are being compromised to host malicious content. Not only that, the ability of the scammers to closely mirror the look and feel of genuine websites is improving all the time. They are also becoming increasingly adept at using legitimate communication methods such as Facebook ads or email phishing campaigns to entice people to visit their fake stores.
Real products, illegal payments
A store front that takes money without delivering goods is one thing. But there are many more sophisticated versions of the fake ecommerce scam out there. One increasingly popular technique is called triangulation, and it works like this:
- You, as a consumer, buy a product from a web shop that you think is real, but is actually fake.
- The scammers behind the fake web shop receive your order and use other person's stolen credit card credentials to purchase your requested product from another, real web shop, and have the product shipped to your address. From your point of view, everything works out fine.
- However, the payment handler of the real web shop is eventually notified of the fraudulent transaction when the credit card e.g. is reported as stolen. They are then left with no revenue for the product that has shipped.
- Now, the scammers still have the money they received from you, but the real web shop is left with no revenue for the product that was shipped.
So, what can online retailers do to fight back?
NTDS: Killing fake sites quickly
Trying to put fake sites out of business by going through the usual legal channels takes too long and costs too much. Fortunately, there is a better option. Automatically scanning the internet for channels, advertisements and subdomains linked to an organisation’s brand is the first and most important step to tackle the issue. It provides an accurate, bigger picture of all assets that carry (a connection to) your brand. You can see which ones are actually yours, and which ones are not. These solutions are part of Digital Risk Protection.
Good Digital Risk Protection solutions offer ecommerce businesses the ability to constantly discover and assess assets for their brand, and file takedown requests for the fake versions of their websites when required. Known as notice and takedown services (NTDS), these solutions identify the fake website and then contact the relevant online service providers to ensure they remove the supporting pillars that are keeping the site online. These service providers can include:
- Web hosting provider
- Email hosting provider
- DNS hosting provider
- Domain registrar
- Social media platform operator
Importantly, providing the right evidence for removing the supporting elements is enough to shut down the fake web shop. But vigilance has to be constant, requiring continuous risk monitoring. New counterfeit sites spring up on a daily basis, especially when it comes to the bigger, more valuable brands.
Do you want to know who is threatening your organisation? Cybersprint can help you protect your resources and reputation. We offer online retailers a free Quickscan of their digital footprint, which easily identifies fake websites that are costing you money, right now.
1 2019 Webroot Threat Report