Nominet and PIPCU, the City of London Police’s intellectual property unit, are collaborating in a pilot to protect internet users from scams online. The industry first initiative for a ccTLD registry sees Nominet introducing law enforcement landing pages for .uk domain names suspended due to criminal activity. This will provide information for those who may have been affected by the criminal activity related to the domain name.
Working with the City of London’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), Nominet, the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) registry for .uk, will begin redirecting web users to a secure site providing consumer advice and education for potential victims of sales of counterfeit branded goods.
PIPCU referrals account for the majority of .uk domain names suspended for criminal activity. Since 2014 108,589 domains used for criminal activity have been taken out of action to keep the .UK namespace safe. The content of the landing page has been developed in collaboration with PIPCU to provide clear messaging for the benefit of the public.
In 2021 Nominet will extend the pilot to include the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). On conclusion of the pilot Nominet will assess the impact and report publicly on the next steps.
“Criminal activity is as unacceptable online as it is offline, and the sale of counterfeit goods continues to result in innocent victims of cybercrime as consumers are duped by increasingly sophisticated websites that are not all they seem to be,” said Eleanor Bradley, MD of Registry & Public Benefit at Nominet.
“Our new landing pages pilot seeks to provide real time education and advice to those who may have been victims of criminal activity at the point they attempt to access the website in question. It is the latest step in our strong collaboration with UK law enforcement agencies and we’ll be monitoring the pages closely to determine the benefit for the public to ensure we can help as many people as possible to stay safe when shopping online.”
“We work closely with Nominet to disrupt criminals who try to operate in the ‘.UK domain’,” said Detective Constable Weizmann Jacobs of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) said. “These law enforcement landing pages, which include advice and guidance for the public, help us in protecting consumers from the dangers of counterfeit goods and protect their personal information when shopping online.”
In their announcement, Nominet also published the following consumer safety advice from City of London Police on how to identify a counterfeit website:
- Check the website for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
- Check the images – usually on counterfeit web pages they will fail to load or take a substantial amount of time to resolve.
- Images on counterfeit sites will have been copied and are usually edited to fit into certain website templates. Therefore pictures may not look proportionate or have high resolution as they have been stretched or reedited.
- Check the consistency of the fonts appearing throughout the website – on a counterfeit site they may not be all the same and will not have a professional finish.
- Be aware that hyperlinks to associated content on a counterfeit website will fail to work – they are just for show.
- Be aware that counterfeit websites sometimes use security authentication to show give the illicit website and “air of authenticity.”
- Be wary of the cost of counterfeit goods – prices will be substantially cheaper than the original, with 50-80% discounts.
- Counterfeit sites may claim to be official online outlet stores – many websites claim that they have heavily discounted prices as they are outlets associated with the relevant retail brand or service. It is worth noting that many luxury brands do not have outlet stores online and that prices will be sold without substantial mark down prices.
There is also advice on how to protect yourself online:
- Trust your instincts – if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Legitimate designer items are rarely discounted, so do not rush and be fooled into believing you are getting a good deal.
- Check the spelling and grammar on the website and of the URL as often the people behind these sites will try to deceive you by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address.
- Look to see where the trader is based and whether they provide a postal address – just because the web address has ‘uk’, do not assume the seller is based in the UK. If there is no address supplied or there is just a PO Box or email, be wary.
- Only deal with reputable sellers and only use sites you know or ones that have been recommended to you. If you have not bought from the seller before, do your research and check online reviews. People will often turn to forums and blogs to warn others of fake sites.
- Ensure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment.
- Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date.
- Ask the trader if there is a returns policy or guarantee. Most rogue traders will not offer this.
- Watch out for pop-ups appearing asking you to confirm your card details before you are on the payment stage. Never enter your PIN online.