HomeShoppingIrish victims lose thousands in global online shopping scam centred in China

Irish victims lose thousands in global online shopping scam centred in China


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Data on a massive online shopping scam centred in China shows at least 4,700 orders were placed by Irish victims involving almost €320,000 over the three-year period to April, according to researchers.

More than 800,000 people across Europe and the US were caught up in the scam, leaked data shows, with researchers in Germany who have investigated the network finding almost no instances of anyone in China falling victim to the criminal network.

Irish victims have told similar stories of placing online orders for clothes that were never delivered and then receiving cheap fake rings in bogus Cartier boxes from an address in China as part of a scheme apparently designed to confirm their addresses.

One of those caught out by the scammers was Siobhan Allen from Dundalk, Co Louth, whose daughter was due to attend a transition year ball and had just three weeks to find a dress. “We found it online and it looked nice and they had her size, so we bought it,” Ms Allen said. “But we never got the dress. We got a ring, it looked like a washer, and it came in a Cartier box.”

Ms Allen paid €116 for the dress and was told by email the item would be delivered within three to five working days. “I always tell my children if it is too good to be true it probably isn’t, but I was in a wee bit of a panic over the dress.”

A man from Marino, Dublin, who didn’t want to be named, said he spotted a jumper in a shop in Dublin city centre in January and, when the shop didn’t have his size, searched for it online when he got home. “It came up on a website and to my delight it was cheaper than in the shop and they had my size.”

He paid using his Revolut account, but as soon as he got a confirmation email, knew he had been scammed.

“I thought, I’ve been done here, and straight away I disputed the payment with Revolut. I got the money back.”

About a month later he got a notice that he had to pay a €5 customs charge on an item that had been sent in the post and went to his local post office and did so. “It was a ring from China.”

A teacher in the southwest who did not want to be named said she bought a pair of boots after finding them online in her size, but knew she had been defrauded as soon as she saw the message displayed after she made the payment.

“The English was atrocious. I knew straight away I was in the soup.” Not long afterwards she too received a ring in the post.

More than 800,000 people have fallen victim to the scammers over recent years, according to Matthias Marx of Berlin-based Security Research Labs, which has investigated the scam network and gained access to several gigabytes of data harvested by the criminal network. The leaked data includes the names, phone numbers and email addresses of at least 100 Irish victims.

A core team based in China designed the basic infrastructure with other teams using the structure to run bogus online shops to rob money and harvest data. “It’s like a franchise structure,” Marx said.

The network, which is being described as one of the largest such networks yet uncovered, has been involved in sales worth more than $50 million over the past three years and the misuse of approximately 76,000 domain names, he said.

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