Following the pandemic, the rapid shift to digital has been accelerated even further and has consequently  provided fraudsters with an abundance of opportunities to cheat and dupe unsuspecting, and often vulnerable, consumers. Physical store closures during lockdown meant people were forced to quickly shift their shopping habits to exclusively online… and the fraudsters were ready for them.

Resourceful and unrelenting in their pursuit of ways to make money, criminals are using increasingly sophisticated means to scam consumers and exploit brands’ reputations online. From unauthorised selling to harmful counterfeit products, the pandemic provided a boost to the criminal economy.

An increasingly digital world

Counterfeiting now relies heavily on the digital world to source components and distribute products to consumers via marketplaces, online platforms, social media channels and instant messaging services. Videos, sponsored advertising and live-streaming sales on social media are particularly popular channels to promote counterfeit clothes and clothing accessories. Customers are lured by deceitful discounts or low-price branded products, all too good to resist. And it’s not just luxury goods that are experience worrying increases in counterfeit goods, a variety of everyday products are also being targeted by fraudsters.

A study carried out by the EUIPO and the OECD estimates that in 2019, counterfeit and pirated goods worth EUR 119 billion were imported into the EU. This figure represents 5.8 % of EU imports. More than 15% of the total amount of articles seized related to fake medicines, cosmetics, food and beverages, electrical household goods and toys. This poses a substantial threat to the health and safety of EU consumers and causes a massive challenge for brand owners.  With figures like these reported before the pandemic hit, the scale, scope and persistence of the problem can seem like a tsunami, leaving brand protection teams feeling ineffective, inefficient and unsure where to start.


Artificial Intelligence technology handles scale and provides power

Thankfully, the advances in technology have also provided some solutions to these problems. Software technology has advanced to the point where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is able to handle large datasets very efficiently. Such datasets could relate to social media posts, marketplace listings and search engine product results – a volume of information impossible for people to manually process and monitor. This technology is able to spot patterns of negative behaviour in the data. In the same way criminals leave physical fingerprints offline, fraudsters leave a trail of digital fingerprints online that this technology can spot, tracing them back to their unscrupulous activity. It is also possible to look for patterns of similar behaviour across multiple marketplaces, social media and websites to connect offenders covertly working together.

Technology combined with human legal expertise offers a winning formula

Such technology can deliver insights that provide a quick and crucial overview of the scale and scope of threats faced by brands online. For example, what are the biggest threats, where they’re located, the worst offenders and the most offending platforms. However, while technology supports scale, human analysts remain integral to providing legal expertise and deeper insight into what’s uncovered. Brands often spend a large portion of their budget on monitoring tactics that are not bringing efficient results. By combining AI technology with trained legal and investigative experts, it is possible to transform how brands tackle this growing problem, allowing them to focus on what matters to make a difference in the long-term.

Once key offenders have been identified and a strategic approach agreed, the technology can also work at speed to capture visual evidence of products being added to baskets to track when and where products were available for sale to the public. So, even if an unauthorised seller takes their site down to ‘hide’ their actions, the evidence has been captured to allow enforcement teams to take the necessary measures to pursue enforcement action.

BRANDIT works with a number of top technology providers within the online brand protection industry and our Platform Risk Assessment with Pasabi allows us to offer something different for our clients. So, whether you’re looking to scale and maximise your brand protection activities, or trying to safeguard your customers from fraudulent activity, a Platform Risk Assessment provides insights into the threats you face across multiple channels online and helps inform your brand protection strategy.

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