A group of Chinese cyber-criminals allegedly manages the illicit network of more than 13,000 fake ecommerce websites.

Italian officials have this week begun seizing what could be one of the world’s largest networks of fake ecommerce websites, which have defrauded would-be customers by appearing to offer discounted goods from luxury brands such as Giorgio Armani SpA and Prada SpA that never materialize.

A group of Chinese cyber-criminals allegedly manages the illicit network of more than 13,000 fake ecommerce websites, as suggested by infrastructure code and the payment system’s gateway, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named discussing confidential information. Cybersecurity firm Yarix discovered the illicit network.

Uncovering fake ecommerce websites

A spokesman for Yarix confirmed the company is actively assisting a large-scale investigation aimed at taking down fake ecommerce websites. Law enforcement agencies from other European countries and the U.S. could later join the investigation, the spokesman added.

Officials at Italian law enforcement agency Polizia Postale on Jan. 25 started taking down some of these fake ecommerce websites related to Italian brands, the people said.

These sites are well-designed imitations of genuine corporate websites. Discounted prices usually attract customers. But no deliveries are made, and the websites generally include a real credit card payment platform used to steal buyers’ financial data, the people said.


A representative for Italy’s Polizia Postale confirmed the operation and declined to comment on details.

“What we revealed is a coordinated, infrastructured network of well-designed fake shops across the world that in the last two years have probably stolen tens of millions of euros, dollars from unsuspecting clients,” said Mirko Gatto, CEO at Yarix, in a phone interview.

Italian fashion brands targeted by the criminal network include Brunello Cucinelli, Dolce & Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna and Moncler, the people said. The cyber-criminals also targeted international sports brands such as Nike, Adidas and New Balance, they said.

Most of the fake shops’ servers and digital platforms searched in the current probe are located in Panama, Turkey and the U.S., the people said.


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