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.”
Yesterday (01-29-12) I received a Canadian Pharmacy spam. The first in several months. The pharmacy ship might be sinking, but still spewing spam.
Pretty much every pharma affiliate program has a “Canadian Pharmacy” template.You have to dig around the site and the order processing system to really find out who is running it.
Ah, I love seeing them fail. And the closing of GlavTorg certainly does not disappoint.
Just because a few get closed, there always seems to be another site trying to get you to buy cheap imitations or fakes. We can’t let ourselves be lulled by the success in getting rid of just one. As long as computer hackers are paid to build new weapons to separate us from our money, we will see new versions of the same old tried and true ways of stealing our money. Keep up the good work reporting, Brian!
I can get worked up over fake medicine and even fake “lifestyle” drugs like Viagra, but I can’t get excited over fake handbags. The buyers and sellers both know they are fake and no one is going to suffer because they bought a fake handbag.
I would agree on “knock-offs don’t bother me as much”, except that they still are relying on illegal botnets and spam to sell the knock-offs. THAT I have huge issue with.
FWIW, the spam I get is 90+% Nigerian type solicitations.
Could it be that competition from Chinese got too fierce?
GlavTorg always seemed an odd man out on the Russian affiliate scene, which is dominated by pharma, porn, PPC and gambling.
Meanwhile, replicas have been the mainstay of the Asian grey economy since the 80s.
I read a rather amusing story once (could just be an urban legend) where a Ford Focus was taken in for servicing in China. The mechanics were having trouble with some serial numbers on parts from the car and then realised that no serial numbers anywhere were genuine. Turned out the entire vehicle was counterfeit but almost indistinguishable from the genuine product other than serial numbers not resolving to their check characters properly.
Could just be a fiction but its amusing 😉
Especially since they look suspiciously like a MITSUBISHI LANCER. Their Ford Fiesta Hybrid looks similar but is made in Europe.
“the banks are the vital thing to all of this stuff.”
Exactly. And I would hope that the folks at Chanel are paying attention to Stefan Savage’s research and are following the money themselves.
I can’t help but be impressed by Gmail’s spam detection. The first 10 or so Google search results for my email are *.txt, one amusingly named “poor bastards.txt” (LOL?) but I might recieve spam to my inbox once every 3 months or so. It’s still coming if I look at my spam folder, just Google seems to have mastered sorting it pretty well.