Scammers sell fake makeup, beauty products on dupe websites; some could cause health problems

ByAnn Pistone and Jason Knowles WLS logo
Thursday, May 23, 2024
Scammers selling bogus beauty products on dupe websites
Cybersecurity company Brandshield says fake websites are using legitimate company logos and names as scammers try to sell counterfeit cosmetics and beauty products.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Scammers are selling fake beauty products and services that could do more than imperil your wallet; they could also harm your health.

A new study found a major increase in fraudulent websites selling bogus beauty products. The items may look real, but those sites can scam you or the products could lead to serious health problems.

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Big brand names in the beauty industry like Sephora, Bath and Body Works and Prada are popular with consumers, but security experts at the cybersecurity company Brandshield said there are fake websites out there using the legitimate company's logos and names.

Brandshield said there has been a spike in recent years of scammers trying to sell counterfeit cosmetics and beauty products on deceptive sites.

So how do they know that they're fake?

"We're basically using different tools, AI tools and web scraping and other capabilities to really analyze huge amounts of data and detect the potential threats," said Yoav Keren, CEO of Brandshield. "You're seeing a product that looks legitimate. The picture looks legitimate. The price may be you know, reasonably discounted."

Keren said even if you get the product, you could end up with a counterfeit item which can have dangerous side effects, especially if you end up with fake Botox or filler. Both are prescription medicines meant to be administered by licensed health care providers.

"When you deal with pharmaceuticals or beauty products, these are things that if someone buys that counterfeited product, that's pretty dangerous," Keren said.

Two people were hospitalized in Illinois last month after getting fake Botox injections. The counterfeit product caused a "botulism-like" illness, with side effects like muscle paralysis, blurry vision and even death if left untreated.

Keren says there are steps you can take to avoid being duped into buying bogus beauty products.

"The first thing that you can do is look at the domain name, the URL of the website that, the address of the website that you're trying to reach. If there is a typo, in the name of that website, it's a scam," he said.

Typing in the store or brand's official website is always the best way to go; avoid phishing links; and remember that special offers sent through social media and direct messaging will usually lead to a scam.

Shopping at the stores in-person is also always a good bet to make sure you're getting a real and safe product. If you are going to buy a product or service online, check the Better Business Bureau and research reviews.

We also reached out to all of the real companies whose names were used on fake sites. None replied to our request for comment.