Met Police takes down Xmas scam websites

The PCeU and Nominet teamed up for ‘Operation Papworth’ to make online shopping safer.

jewel box

The Metropolitan Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) has taken down more than 1,000 scam retail websites with the help of domain name registry Nominet.

As part of Operation Papworth', the PCeU took down 1,219 websites set up by criminal networks claiming that they were selling designer gear.

Gangs were taking advantage of brand names such as Ugg Australia Boots, ghd Hair Straighteners, Tiffany & Co and Links of London.

Shoppers convinced to buy items received nothing or counterfeit products. They also risked their identity being used fraudulently by criminals elsewhere.

It is believed these websites could have run up profits amounting to millions of pounds.

"The risk begins when your desire to purchase blinds your judgement or leads you to illegal websites," said Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, head of the PCeU, in a statement.

"If it looks too good to be true, it probably is," she added.

The PCeU set up Operation Papworth with Nominet, which manages over eight million domain names, to target misuse of the UK domain name system and reduce retail fraud.

Lesley Cowley, chief executive of Nominet, said in a statement: "We received clear instructions from the PCeU to take down the '.co.uk' domain names, which have been under investigation for criminal activity."

"We worked closely with the police and our registrars to quickly carry out the instruction to shut down access to these sites," she added.

The majority of the sites were registered from Asia, taking over UK domain names by using false details.

This made it virtually impossible for victims to complain, and also made it very difficult for law enforcement or Trading Standards to do anything about it.

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