Fraud is thriving on the Net according to a survey published Monday.
The study -- conducted by Internet security firm ArmorGroup -- finds that 35 percent of all luxury goods for sale on the Web are fake leading the firm to dub the e-commerce revolution a dot.con.
According to the research, online shoppers are a gullible lot. When shown goods such as footwear and jeans, a third wrongly identified the items as genuine. A staggering 96 percent believed a fake BT logo to be genuine, 91 percent Visa and 89 percent Virgin.
Those wishing to set up a fictitious Internet company will probably find it easy, the survey concludes. When presented with the following imaginary companies, 80 percent claimed to be familiar with Royal Alliance Insurance, 69 percent with Halifax & General and 64 percent with First Line Direct.
"With its ease of access, massive audience and potential for anonymity, the Internet provides an ideal platform not just for counterfeiters of luxury goods but for unscrupulous businesses or individuals to masquerade as reputable companies," concludes Howard Cottrell, executive director of IP at ArmorGroup.
Counterfeiting is big business as the survey finds that practically any item can be sourced globally. Particular countries are becoming known for particular fakes with Turkey leading the fake jeans trade and Lebanon specialising in fake mobile phones.
Cottrell is concerned that the black market could be potentially lethal. "Fake pharmaceuticals, car parts and electrical goods are on the increase. Not subject to rigorous testing, technical support or customer care, these counterfeits pose real dangers to consumers," he says.
Alan Stevens, head of digital services at the Consumer Association admits fraud on the Net is a "real problem". "It is all too easy to set up a Web site and the Internet provides another medium for crooks and fraudsters," he says. Stevens urges the government to encourage businesses to use accreditation schemes -- like Which's Webtrader -- and to educate the public about the dangers of online shopping.
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