Football fans are being warned about the risk of inadvertently spending big money on fake kits and counterfeit memorabilia as fraudsters seek to take advantage of World Cup fever.
Local authorities across the UK have recently undertaken investigations to tackle the sale of such items to unsuspecting supporters, with one operation resulting in the seizure of more than £240,000 of fake football shirts.
The tees were stopped from entering the market by trading standards officers at Leicestershire City Council, who uncovered them at East Midlands Airport not long before the big kick-off in Russia earlier this month.
In total, council officers there have prevented the sale of 12,000 football kits across 27 incidents since April.
There have been similar operations led by Newport City Council – with a couple recently found to have been running fake eBay accounts to sell counterfeit shirts – and Dorset County Council, which discovered a £1m haul of fake memorabilia, including a shirt with a false Wayne Rooney signature.
The owner of that business will spend more than five years in jail after being found guilty of fraud and money laundering.
With excitement over the World Cup set for a further boost when the knock-out stages get underway on Saturday, the Local Government Association (LGA) has issued shopping advice to fans to avoid further cases of fraud.
Items bought in person should be checked for copyright and accurate signatures, and those buying online are urged to do their homework on the seller – such as looking up reviews and other feedback.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, who chairs the LGA board tasked with promoting health and safety, said: “Councils work extremely hard to try to prevent scams in our communities.
“Online fraud is now the biggest type of fraud, with thousands of people reporting scams each month, resulting in millions of pounds being conned from people across the country.
“Scammers are cunning and opportunistic, so the World Cup fever gripping the nation provides a way for them to callously try to exploit people’s enthusiasm for all things football.
“People should always do their research when buying football memorabilia and replica kits. Check the reviews of online sellers, and bear in mind that if something is really cheap, it’s likely to be fake.”