Press releases as news

This is a second post about one article in the Guardian. One of the reasons why claims such as this get repeated without question is the news sources’ reliance on press releases. Nick Davies, in the excellent Flat Earth News shows how rushed journalists don’t get chance to check all the facts, and have to rely on what government, companies and others tell them. Here’s a good example. Below I compare a Guardian article with the Metropolitan Police Service press release. The Guardian version has only two sentences that aren’t in the press release, one of which was an excuse to use a picture of Vivienne Westwood to illustrate the article:

One online security source said the operation was ground-breaking in its scale and in the way it attempted to protect the UK system. The source said this was thought to be the biggest mass “deregistration” of scam counterfeit goods websites anywhere in the world.

It is understood other designer brands targeted by the criminals include jewellery firm Links of London and clothing labels Vivienne Westwood and Ed Hardy.

Now that’s criminal.

The MPS comes first, and the Guardian version is in italics:

MPS e-Crime unit takes down scam websites

Police shut 1,200 scam shopping websites

Christmas shoppers stand a better chance of avoiding online fraud this festive season (A spokesman said that as a result, “Christmas shoppers stand a better chance of avoiding online fraud this festive season”) after the Metropolitan Police’s Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) took down 1,219 scam websites. As part of Operation Papworth, the PCeU this week targeted websites run by organised criminal networks which purported to sell designer items – including Ugg Australia Boots, ghd hair straighteners, and jewellery from Tiffany & Co and Links of London.

UK police this week shut down more than 1,200 scam websites that claimed to be selling designer clothes and jewellery, in what is thought to be the biggest single swoop of its kind in the world. The 1,219 websites purported to sell items ranging from Ugg boots and Tiffany & Co jewellery to GHD hair straighteners.

Innocent shoppers were duped into making what appeared to be bargain purchases, but received either nothing at all or counterfeit products. Victims also ran the potential risk of the criminals stealing their identity for misuse elsewhere. The websites are thought to have generated millions of pounds for the gangs which could then be used to fund other illicit activity.

… innocent British shoppers were duped into making what appeared to be bargain purchases, but they received either counterfeit products or nothing at all. The websites are thought to have generated millions of pounds for organised criminal gangs, which could then be used to fund other illicit activities, the Metropolitan Police’s Central e-crime unit (PCeU) said. Victims also ran the potential risk of the criminals stealing their identities and credit card and banking details for misuse elsewhere.

Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, head of the PCeU, said: “Fraudsters target the victim’s desire to buy designer goods at reduced prices, particularly at this time of year. The risk begins when your desire to purchase blinds your judgment or leads you to illegal websites. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Detective superintendent Charlie McMurdie, head of the PCeU, said: “Fraudsters target the victim’s desire to buy designer goods at reduced prices, particularly at this time of year. The risk begins when your desire to purchase blinds your judgment or leads you to illegal websites. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

This operation was instigated by the PCeU to target the criminal misuse of the UK domain name system, with the objective of preventing harm to British citizens and making it safer to trade online. The PCeU worked in partnership with Nominet – the body responsible for UK domain name registrations and one of the world’s largest internet registries, managing over eight million domain names. As a result the PCeU has deregistered 1,219 website domain names – taking them down at the registry level to prevent re-registration.

The clampdown, dubbed Operation Papworth, was instigated by the PCeU to target the “criminal misuse” of UK domain names with the aim of preventing harm to British consumers and making it safer to trade online… The unit worked in partnership with Nominet, the body responsible for UK domain name registrations. As a result, all the sites have been taken down at the registry level to prevent re-registration.

Lesley Cowley, chief executive of Nominet, said: “We received clear instructions from the PCeU to take down the .co.uk domain names, which have been under investigation for criminal activity. We worked closely with the police and our registrars to quickly carry out the instruction to shut down access to these sites.

Lesley Cowley, chief executive of Nominet, said: “We received clear instructions from the PCeU to take down the .co.uk domain names, which have been under investigation for criminal activity. We worked closely with the police and our registrars to quickly carry out the instruction to shut down access to these sites.”

Intelligence showed that the vast majority of the sites were registered from Asia, despite their UK domain names, mostly using false or misleading details. That made it almost impossible for victims to complain about poor quality, counterfeited items or goods not received. It also makes it difficult for Trading Standards or other law enforcement agencies to take action.

Intelligence showed that the vast majority of the sites were registered in China and other countries in Asia, mostly using false or misleading details. That meant it was almost impossible for victims to complain about poor quality counterfeit items or goods never arriving. It also made it difficult for trading standards and other law enforcement agencies to take action.

Consumer Direct, Trading Standards, the Office of Fair Trading and manufacturers also helped to identify the fraudulent web sites.

Consumer Direct, Trading Standards officers, the Office of Fair Trading and manufacturers also helped to identify the fraudulent websites.

Contact Consumer Direct for further advice.  Visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk for contact details. If you have bought from one of these sites, and the goods you ordered fail to arrive but your credit or debit card has been charged, you should contact your card company to see if you can get your money back.

Consumer Direct said that if consumers have bought from one of these sites, and the goods have not arrived but their credit or debit card has been charged, they should contact their card company to see if they can get their money back.

Further advice can be found at: Consumer Direct www.consumerdirect.gov.uk Get Safe Online www.getsafeonline.org Metropolitan Police Service Fraud Alert web site www.met.police.uk/fraudalert

Further advice can be found at Get Safe Online and the Metropolitan Police’s fraud alert website

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