The survey has found that around 20,000 fake shopping sites were in operation in the second half of this year, Japan’s National Police Agency said Thursday, warning that the sites are designed to swindle money from unsuspecting shoppers.
Most of the websites use a hyperlink with a fake ad to lead victims to a scam site, the NPA said, based on the survey by the Japan Cybercrime Control Center involving information security and online service providers.
Typically, victims are led to the fake sites after using a search engine to look for information about a product they want to buy and clicking on a hyperlink including words such as “brand wristwatch, high quality.”
Products featured on malicious sites include not only luxury bags and watches but also general items and sporting goods. The websites tend to be written in unnatural Japanese, according to the center.
In the period from July to earlier this month, there were 19,834 scam sites, the survey found.
The police are investigating 122 bank accounts designated by the sites for payment, and confirmed that so far about 240 million yen ($2.1 million) has been transferred to them.
Investigators have identified online shopping scams involving 43 people, including those suspected of making their bank accounts available to the websites in violation of a law preventing the transfer of criminal proceeds.
The center submitted the outcome of the survey to the Anti-phishing Working Group, an international organisation with the task of unifying the global response to cybercrime. Steps have been taken to trigger a pop-up alert when computer users are about to connect to a scam site.