Counterfeit Sports Shirts, Jerseys Becoming a Bigger Problem

counterfeit sports gear sold onlineWearing a team jersey may be a great way to show your loyalty, but counterfeiters are luring stadiumfuls of sports fans into buying fakes, says a report by security firm MarkMonitor.

In fact, chances are good your favorite team is actually competing with fraudsters to steer you to the real thing. MarkMonitor says that over the course of a year of tracking, it found 1,300 web sites selling more than 1.2 million team jerseys or shirts online, generating almost $25 million in revenue and attracting 56 million annual visits. The "vast majority" of sites were linked to a Chinese registrant or registrar.These syndicates use a variety of sophisticated methods to deliver the goods, says the report, published earlier this month. "Suspected counterfeiters are competing with legitimate advertisers for advertising inventory, driving up prices and even outbidding legitimate advertisers for premium placement," the report says.

Those methods include spamming, cybersquatting and typosquatting, affiliate marketing, keyword bombing and "black hat" search engine optimization, all legal activities -- in many cases muscling out your favorite teams from promoting their own brands online.

"The sheer size of the abuse puts this market into a major league of its own," the report says. And that's just jerseys and shirts, not caps, tickets or socks.

How it works: When someone tries to find a team jersey online, chances are good that counterfeiters have gamed search engines by creating literally thousands of spam websites that, in turn, point to their sites, making them seem more relevant and increasing their prominence in search results. Fraudsters cybersquat domains that sound like and often look like the real thing, for example,

MarkMonitor used five major U.S. and international sports brands to do its research. The report does not discuss what team brands are the most counterfeited. But researchers did also find a booming business-to-business exchange in fake jerseys -- 4,000 different unlicensed suppliers on 12 sites. "This supply chain consists of suppliers who are based predominantly in Asia and are estimated to sell 300,000 jerseys annually," the report says.

How do you steer clear of counterfeit jerseys? A little Web savvy and common sense. Here's an example: Go to Google and type in the search terms "arsenal soccer jersey." The seventh organic result (not a paid ad) says:

Witness the glory-Review of five-star arsenal soccer ...
Dec 6, 2010 ... In 1962, Brazil's arsenal soccer jersey from left to right is: Garrincha, Didi, ... Number on the chest five crown arsenal soccer jersey ...

First, the web site is called Knowing what you know now after reading this report, you probably don't want to shop there.

Second, go to the site itself and read this page:

Witness the glory-Review of five-star arsenal soccer jersey
king / 2010-12-06

Brazil jersey for World Cup will be released tomorrow! Then let's review a few glorious moments of the Yellow Shirts bar Mention to Brazil, we had to think of that familiar superstar, the hot samba, and also the Brazilian yellow opponent. Those active football players wearing arsenal soccer jersey captured the hearts of generation after generation. They represent the glory, they represent the passion.

It would be hard to find a better example of junk text created to game search engine algorithms.

Third, it took me about 10 seconds to find this example. That's what scammers are counting on -- that you'll make your buying moves fast, looking for the lowest price.

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