Federal investigators announced a crackdown on 70 “copy cat” websites that sold counterfeit merchandize by making themselves “almost indistinguishable” from their authentic counterparts, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The fake sites purported to sell items such as official San Francisco 49ers jerseys, Louis Vuitton designer bags, and upscale Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The copy cat sites used photos of Secure Sockets Layer certificates — often seen as padlock logos — that are supposed to let customers know entering their credit card information is safe because the website is secure and verified. The copycat trend presents an “alarming” new problem because it shows the increasing sophistication of online counterfeiters, said John Morton, director of the department's U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement unit. “The fake sites and the real sites are almost indistinguishable,” Morton said. “And the fake sites aren't offering obvious knockoffs. They are trying to masquerade as the real deal.” What’s new is that the copy cat sites didn't have some of the more obvious flaws and other telltale signs that consumers can use as a tip off, such as misspelled names and words and prices that are abnormally below normal retail.