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Using librarian skills to uncover a network of dodgy shopping sites!

In all my posts over the years I'm not sure if I ever mentioned I am an avid steampunker.  Like many of my quirky fellow librarians, I love a good dress up and recently found myself searching for a great pair of boots to go with the Steampunk Aviator Superhero costume I'm assembling (trust me, it will work!).

One evening whilst idly thumbing through Pinterest I found a picture of these undeniably AWESOME combat-boot style boots.  I followed the link to the website (www.chichola.com) and although it didn't look dodgy and offered PayPal, I am a cautious online shopper and always check the customer reviews first.  They were 1000% abysmal.  Like the kind of reviews that say SCAM, THEFT and CAN I LEAVE 0 STARS.  So despite loving the shoes, I was definitely not parting with my money on this occasion.

Fast forward a couple of months and I see an ad for Victorian-style cosplay boots in my Insta feed.  Did I mention that I am an avid steampunker?  Because seriously, these shoes are steampunk with a capital S.T.E.A.M.P.U.N.K!

The ad was from an online store called CupChic (www.cupchic.com) and were heavily discounted.  The site appeared to have some great stuff so I started browsing to see what else they had on offer.  This is when I stumbled across exactly the same combat boots from ChicHola.  OK, so I realise different shops can offer the same product but it felt a bit odd and the librarian in me wanted to research further.

I grabbed the image of the Victorian Steampunk boots and performed a reverse image search.  This produced the following results:



These boots were listed in LOTS of shopping websites and many of them seemed rather similar.  This prompted me to grab the combat boots pic and also perform a reverse search.   I won't post the results here because that list was HUGE, and funnily enough the websites using that pic were similar to, or the same as, the ones listing the Victorian boots.

My nosy librarian streak was REALLY piqued, so I methodically started looking into each site that listed either or both pics.  I discovered that each used the Shopify platform (which explains why they looked similar) but delving deeper it was evident that many used the same stock photos, the same pricing schemes and often rather similar sounding double-barrelled names with no address or phone number, just a generic email address to contact. During this research Insta was regularly placing sponsored ads for some of these websites into my feed, and I was getting good at spotting them as they often showcased brown boots (probably because I love brown boots) and had those giveaway, double-barrelled URL's.

I started compiling a list of all the websites I had uncovered.  Once I had the list I checked the date the domain name was first registered (using https://smallseotools.com/domain-age-checker/) and the entity which registered the domain name (using a WHOIS search at https://au.godaddy.com/whois/).  I also researched what customer reviews I could find on each site.

Here are my results in order of newest to oldest URL:

https://www.cecilina.com
2 months; No reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://www.chickeep.com
2 months; No reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://cocaelle.com
3 months; No reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://chicocoo.com
3 months; No reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://www.elegchic.com
4 months; No reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://www.unfadememory.com
6 months; 1-star reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://www.cupchic.com
6 months; Negative FB reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://jolienana.com
6 months; No reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://popzora.com
6 months; 1-star reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://www.chichola.com
1 year, 3 months; 1-star reviews, Angry faces on their FB page; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://www.fashionsent.com
1 year, 4 months; 1 negative YouTube clip; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://www.popmira.com
1 year, 4 months; 1-star reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://www.rikkishop.com
1 year, 4 months; 1-star reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://justfashionnow.com
1 year, 9 months; 1-star reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

https://www.stylewe.com
3 years, 11 months; Hundreds of bad reviews; CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED

I delved into TrustPilot to scrutinize the 5-star reviews for some of these sites, and could see that some "reviewers" were overjoyed with their purchases from CHICV INTERNATIONAL-owned websites.  In the screenshot below, Casal Sobre Rodas is oh so happy with PopJulia, JustFashionNow and Stylewe!  And let's not overlook the irony that these reviews are on TRUSTPilot.

A quick old-fashioned Google search shows that the PayPal community are  already discussing their purchases from CHICV INTERNATIONAL:

https://www.paypal-community.com/t5/Disputes-and-Limitations/Don-t-buy-from-CHICV-INTERNATIONAL-HOLDING-LIMITED/td-p/1506498

But honestly, for the average consumer who doesn't have the knowledge, skills or time to delve into the background of these websites, how would they ever uncover the truth?  This is especially true for those URLs that are newly registered and thus don't have published customer reviews.

As I type this my Insta feed is still showing sponsored ads for the newly registered websites of CHICV INTERNATIONAL (I am reporting them as misleading / scam adverts).  I have no doubt that these ads will result in thousands of purchases for the company from their new suite of sites.  Perhaps these purchases will end with happy customers receiving high-quality goods... or perhaps not.  Only time will tell.

This exercise really hit home to me just how essential digital literacy is in the modern age and also how important it is to DO YOUR RESEARCH, even if the site does look legit.  In the meantime as librarians it is IMPERATIVE that we continue to foster curiosity and teach people to question, question, QUESTION!  In this post-truth environment, a bit of questioning upfront can certainly save a lot of frustration in the end!

(P.S. I would recommend you don't buy anything from those sites! If anyone can find where I can get a legit pair of those Victorian steampunk boots I will be eternally grateful! :-D)




Comments

  1. thank you, such an excellent warning. Our experience, and a different type of scam, was ordering cutlery, paying for air freight and the goods not showing up. No response from the company. Cancelled payment made on the credit card, ordered from another more reliable and the one you usually use, goods turn up then the other goods turned up. Despite paying for them to be air freighted they had come by sea!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi there, I came across your blog when searching a couple of obscure websites that were selling shoes I was interested in. These are http://www.10daydiet.net and http://www.cincinnatimobilesolutions.com. Do you think these are also dodgy sites like those listed above?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hiya! 10daydiet.net looks dodgy as I would not touch anyone with no direct email or physical address listed. Also why is the domain name so different to the product? I just don’t think it looks legit. And oh my gosh the cincinnati one looks even worse my advice would be to avoid!!!!

      Delete
  3. Sadly I can add few more that I had misfortune to deal with:

    TALEMISS - PP - CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED (1994917056@qq.com)
    chicsellers PP - CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED (1994917056@qq.com)
    Fashion Nana CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED (1994917056@qq.com)

    only after paying and checking my PP I realized the money goes to to one and the same CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED (1994917056@qq.com)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahhhh bummer that totally sucks ☹️ Thanks for posting the update, and sorry you had to uncover these new sites the hard way. I still report their sites every time I see them advertised on Insta, and they are on Insta a lot! And Pinterest!

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much! chicsellers. Used your methodology to search above. chicsellers are just another dodgy chinese company working out of Wanchai, Hong Kong.

      Delete
  4. Put on zoesweet.com to the list
    Same shit of copy from China. And then your in battle with CHICV on PP. Nothing match the pictures from there website when you receive your order. I tried to contact Facebook and Instagram, so fare no luck. The only thing you can do at the moment, is to block and sent it as spam. So fare I'm seeing less commercials of those websites on Instagram.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Also locatshic & fanvova is connected to CHICV INTERTIONALE HOLDING LIMITED

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  6. Most of the online clothing stores are drop shippers. They use the pics from the wholesaler, usually supplied via Ali Baba or Aliexpress online markets. There's an app which allows drop-shippers to link products directly to their website; Oblero, from memory. When an order is made, the wholesaler packs and sends direct from wherever they are, the online business is merely a middle man and gets their cut based on their mark up of the products.

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    Replies
    1. Hiya - in the case of CHICV though they are grabbing pics from brands like Frye Boots in the USA who retail around $500 (I’m pretty sure the steampunk boots from my post are actually Frye brand) or Ralph Lauren jackets that are like $1,500 when you find legitimate listings, but on CHICV sites the prices next to these stolen pics are “$49 + free shipping” 🤔. They are amassing an impressive library of stolen images from high end fashion labels and using these pics as click bait. The pics they choose work especially well on platforms like Insta and Pinterest.

      Delete
    2. Yes, they grab photos from the work of genuine artists and designers, small single person creators. If you get the goods at all, they are shoddy and no where like the photo. Not dropshipping, just plain theft.

      Delete
  7. https://m.facebook.com/Stop-scammer-ChicV-301258170515577/

    ReplyDelete
  8. Enjoyed your article and advice... sadly to late for my encounter with chicV by placing an order on a website via Facebook ad called BeyondInn for some women’s clothes that of course never arrived... no response a zillion emails I have sent to the company and no direct contact number. Mad at myself for being so stupid and won’t fall for this scammer crap ever again. $200 reported to my MasterCard fraud division ... investigation pending and waiting to hear if I will get my money back.
    ChicV overall is bad news and it’s unbelievable how many company’s and websites they have running to scam people.

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  9. Nice work. How do you do a reverse image search?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Another expose of evil CHICV! Everyone, please sign my petition! http://chng.it/sY2DxWtm

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  11. I came upon this post while investigating a new-looking site called Fizaza.com. When searching for things like "Is Fizaza.com a scam?", I found nothing. But like the author of the post, some of the images on the site seemed like ones I'd seen before. Luckily, I found the site whois.com, which led me to understand that Fizaza.com is owned by ChicV, and so...probably a scam. I'm so disappointed because their clothes and shoes are AMAZING-LOOKING, but obviously not legit. :-(

    ReplyDelete
  12. Unfortunately I bought from chicvV without checking first...a horrible experience ,which makes me think nobody will ever have a good experience shopping there ,these kinds of sites won’t ever improve since I can see people were complaining more than a year before I bought ...and nothing really changed
    It is so difficult to be sure about the companies you buy from online but maybe we should be more careful, at least check before we buy.The pics were amazing while the actual garments had nothing to do with them...not the design, quality of cloth ,colors etc.They came after a long time and anyway in the meantime I’d checked the company and found out it was a fake one, so no surprise there.
    PLEASE DON’T BUY from ChicV...it’s fake , you’ll lose your money and get a lot of frustration
    Or at least check first !

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great work. I would like to send you a list of many other related sites if you let me know how to upload a screen shot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sharz - don’t think you can upload a screen shot in the comments section alas - feel free to type some in though! Although I can totally understand if there are just too many 😫

      I have sent a long report to Instagram as well, Pinterest is my next target as their ads are still popping up!! 😡😡🤬🤬

      Delete
  14. www.homegaden.com is one of these scam sites too - owned by CHICV INTERNATIONAL HOLDING LIMITED-JFN / I started researching them after (like you) seeing some idiotically low prices items there that look like made by true artists. So for anyone wondering about buying clothes there; HOMEGADEN too is part of this huge internet fraud network.

    Thank you for writing this blog and handing us some really helpful tools to do this type of research! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That’s because, at least in the case of the sweaters and knitted goods featured on homegaden, the pictures are ripped off from actual knitters at Ravelry.com.

      Delete
  15. The boots in the first picture look like Doc Martens, possibly their Triumph 1914, which came in several colors including brown, black, and red. These were made several years ago and are no longer available from the drmartens.com site. I got some via eBay a few years ago. The Triumph 1914 boots come with regular bootlaces and ribbons, and they can be worn up (as in the picture) or the tops can be folded down to reveal the pattern on the lining.

    ReplyDelete

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