Thursday, June 13, 2024

Scammers Posing as Small Business to Sell Knockoff Goods

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Scammers are reportedly using technology such as AI to up their attacks on smaller merchants.

As The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Monday (June 10), online businesses say they are losing customers to fraudsters who use the sellers’ videos, logos and social media posts to steal their identities to sell customers cheap knockoffs or just take their money.

“We used to think you’d be targeted because you have a brand everywhere,” Alastair Gray, director of anticounterfeiting for the International Trademark Association, a nonprofit representing brand owners, told the WSJ.

“It now seems with the ease at which these criminals can replicate websites, they can cut and paste everything.”

As the report notes, technology has been something of a double-edged sword for small businesses: It lets them connect with customers around the world, while also helping these copycats, who are using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to avoid the language or spelling errors that can indicate fraud.

And while giant companies like Amazon and Meta have the tools to block misleading ads, fake accounts or counterfeit goods, smaller businesses are in a different situation, said Thomas Moga, a patent attorney in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

“Large corporations have the in-house ability or can connect with outside counsel to monitor and take down content. They are multilingual,” he said. “Individuals and small businesses don’t have that at the ready. They are really at a significant disadvantage.”

The report follows news from last month about a criminal network of over 75,000 fake eCommerce shops that has scammed more than 800,000 shoppers in the U.S. and Europe. Victims visited these scam shops in search of deals on things like shoes and apparel, and instead had their credit card information stolen.

It’s a tactic known as “triangulation fraud,” a complex scam that leverages the interconnectedness of global eCommerce platforms to exploit both businesses and consumers, who run the risk of having their identity stolen as well as being scammed.

“For businesses, the impact of this type of triangulation fraud can be devastating, and result in a surge of things like chargebacks that not only affect the bottom line but can also damage a company’s reputation and its relationship with payment processors,” PYMNTS wrote.

PYMNTS also spoke recently with Mike Lemberger, senior vice president, chief risk officer, North American Region at Visa, about the growing threat of triangulation scams.

Criminals are “using tools to automate this,” he said. “They’ve got skimmers set up on their site. Larger businesses, they may have some tools inside to prevent fraud and scams … but smaller businesses typically have a little less sophistication.”

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