‘Tis the season to shop and the counterfeiters know that

With less than a week to go before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, holiday shopping is in full swing. With pre-Black Friday ads already hitting the Internet, early bird shoppers aren’t the only ones eagerly planning their shopping strategies. Online scammers and counterfeiters also know how to capitalize on the festive season.

These con-artists know that consumers are using the Internet to search for bargains and have become very skilled in driving traffic to websites that prey on bargain hunters during the holiday shopping frenzy. In fact, shoppers who are looking for bargains may be the easiest targets for fraudsters. For example, in a study that we conducted last year of popular search terms for holiday gift shopping, we found that roughly 17% of paid search ads for those terms led to sites offering suspected counterfeit and pirated goods. By adding a term like ‘cheap’ or ‘discount’ in front of a product name or category, the number dramatically increased. Almost 50% of paid search ads for those phrases linked to these suspicious sites.

There’s no question that we should expect the same level of paid search scams and more stolen web traffic for brand owners this year. As we mentioned in the luxury goods Brandjacking Index® report released in September, sellers of fake goods are extremely adept at pulling in traffic. In fact, through researching five major brands in the luxury goods category, we found more than 120 million visits siphoned away annually from the legitimate sites for those brands, representing almost half the traffic that visited their legitimate dot com sites! Fraudsters are adept online marketers, exploiting cybersquatting, black hat search engine optimization techniques and paid search scams to lure shoppers away from the legitimate brand sites.

One can only wonder how much traffic brand owners will lose during this year’s busy shopping season. Although websites selling items at 50% discount don’t seem out of the ordinary, considering it’s the norm for online and retail merchants to slash prices during this time, the rush to find great holiday bargains offers a prime opportunity to exploit eager shoppers. Brand owners should thus be aware of this mentality – by anticipating this type of behavior, one can proactively hone in on how brands are being searched online and take an offensive approach in combating counterfeiters this season. Ongoing communication with potential customers also never hurts. Providing tips on how to shop safely online and educating customers on how to spot fakes can only help this year’s holiday shopper avoid an unhappy holiday.