Fraudsters exploit online underground markets to sell illicit items

As of 2018, counterfeiting is the largest criminal enterprise in the world
Published: Jun. 28, 2023 at 3:15 PM CDT
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(InvestigateTV) — The sale of counterfeit goods is estimated to be between $1.7 and $4.5 trillion a year globally, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Dr. David Maimon, director of the Evidence Based Cyber Security Group (EBCS) at Georgia State University, said many of these counterfeit items are being bought and sold online in underground marketplaces.

“The issue of underground markets is very big at this point,” Maimon explained. “We are seeing people using those markets to sell and purchase all kinds of illicit commodities.”

Maimon said many of these markets are hosted on legitimate text messaging apps, making them much more accessible than the dark net. This also makes anyone with those platforms installed on their phone more vulnerable to not only counterfeit goods, but also frauds and scams.

To combat this, the EBCS works directly in the online fraud ecosystem and underground markets, places where cyber criminals discuss and launch attacks, Maimon explained. The EBCS collects data from those areas to share with consumers.

“Those markets at the end of the day are one of the end sort of echelon in a very sophisticated supply chain. What you see on those platforms are essentially illicit commodities,” Maimon said. “So, the drugs, the counterfeit products, the identities that compromise bank accounts—all of those commodities which the criminals were able to obtain illegally of course and then are offering them for sale.”

Dr. Maimon said the best way you can avoid scams is to protect your personal information and always vet sellers before sending any money. has online resources to help consumers spot and report fake items.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has an online guide to help avoid scams.