Holiday Jeers to Online Scammers

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The Copyright Alliance wants to help shoppers avoid getting a Trojan Horse as a holiday present this year. In its 2018 edition of tips for making sure holiday shoppers are getting copyright-protected gifts, the alliance wants to ensure consumers don’t mistake those flashing red signals for Christmas tree lights and are able to read the signs when it comes to pirated goods masquerading as the real thing.

With the holiday season hard upon us, marked by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, The Wire provides this “digital caveat emptor” public service message by way of the alliance.

Don’t buy unopened or apparently unused goods at flea markets, as they are almost certainly knockoffs. Blurry type and images or spelling errors on packaging are another dead giveaway.

But while those are pretty obvious tells, alliance president Keith Kupferschmid said pirate websites have become increasingly savvy about posing as legitimate sites with the apparent genuine article.

So, if a price is too good to be true on software, movies, music, etc., it probably is.

The tips are not just about protecting copyright holders. The Wire suspects some who purchase pirated products are not so tech-unsavvy, but rather just looking the other way while hoping to get a good deal. (We’re sure none of The Wire’s readers fall into that category.)

Knockoffs, though, are likely to be of inferior quality, and then there is the possibility of that knockoff electronic interconnected pony being that Trojan Horse.

The alliance says there is a definite link between content theft sites and malware. For example, its “Digital Bait” report — a study of 800 sites distributing stolen TV shows and movies — found that fully one-third of them contained malware, with 45% of them so-called drive-by-downloads. We’re not talking about Santa dropping some presents down the chimney on the fly. Rather, those are sites that download malware to a user’s computer even if they don’t click on any links.

Bottom line, the alliance said, the best way to avoid buying an illegal product online is to buy from a reputable online retail store (or the brick-and-mortar version, for a tad more exercise), or to purchase directly from a copyright owner’s website and, when in doubt, check it out before you buy.

For anyone looking for a gift for The Wire, a presidential insult flak jacket is fashionable in journalistic circles this season.