A prominent affiliate program that pays people to promote knockoff luxury goods is closing its doors at the end of January. The program — GlavTorg.com — is run by the same individuals who launched the infamous Glavmed and SpamIt rogue pharmacy operations.
Launched on July 4, 2010 and first announced on the Glavmed pharmacy affiliate forum, GlavTorg marketed sites that sold cheap imitations of high priced goods, such as designer handbags, watches, sunglasses and shoes.
“July 4 – U.S. Independence Day! Now, Russian craftsmen have a reason to celebrate this holiday. And on this occasion, the launch of GlavTorg.com. The all-new niche for all Russian search engine optimization (SEO) masters. Adult has died, online pharmacies are under pressure, and [fake anti-]spyware is dying. It’s time to move into a new direction. FASHION – that’s the trend this year! High demand, myriad of opportunities… Competition is almost non-existent. High commissions.”
The program apparently was not profitable, or there was a mismatch between supply and demand, because on Dec. 21, 2011, GlavTorg affiliates were told it was being shut down and that they would not be paid after Jan. 31, 2012:
“Dear partners, We would like to inform you that we have decided to close the trade direction replica handbags and clothing. The reasons for this decision and are associated with economic deterioration in the quality of products provided by our suppliers. We believe that any business should be to balance the interests of buyers and sellers, which has recently become disturbed.”
GlavTorg’s failure may have had more to do with pressure from brand owners. In September 2011, handbag maker Chanel filed suit to shutter dozens of sites selling knockoff versions of its products. Among the domains seized and handed over to the company was topbrandclub.com, a primary GlavTorg merchandising site whose home page now bears a warning from Chanel about buying counterfeit goods.
It’s difficult to say whether other knockoff affiliate programs are feeling the same pressures as GlavTorg, but it is fascinating to see how spammers and fraudsters are constantly adapting. Igor Gusev, a Russian businessman closely tied to Glavmed and GlavTorg, has been trying to work out which “grey” Internet business he will pursue next. Gusev is in self-imposed exile from his native Moscow, due to pending criminal charges against him of running a spam operation in Glavmed and SpamIt.
In a phone interview with KrebsOnSecurity.com last July, Gusev said he was considering going into the consulting business, advising online affiliate programs on how to navigate the choppy waters of shady credit card processors and dodgy banks that support those industries.
“Honestly, I am looking into this business,” Gusev said. “From one point of view, it’s pretty risky because I want to stay as far as possible away from doing stuff which could lead to another criminal case. But from another point of view, I can earn some money just to make some consultations with merchants such as this if the merchants agreed to paid some percentage for my expertise,” because the banks are the vital thing to all of this stuff.”