Spam Trail Leads to China’s Three Largest Banks

A researcher made 300 purchases of fake luxury goods online and found that 97 percent were handled by China’s largest three banks.

An academic’s investigation into the underpinnings of the fake luxury goods spam that pollutes in-boxes, social networks, and search results sheds new light on the economics of online crime—and implicates some of the largest banks in the world.

Fake luxury goods stand alongside pharmaceuticals as one of the primary drivers of spam. Damon McCoy, an assistant professor of computer science at New York University, is mapping out and attacking the economic system behind it. And he says the trail leads to the doors of China’s three largest banks.

McCoy’s project is a collaboration with Florida attorney Stephen Gaffigan and four of the world’s largest luxury goods brands—which decline to be named. The Bank of China, the Bank of Communications, and Agricultural Bank of China handled 97 percent of 300 fake goods purchases made during McCoy’s project, which has been running for nearly 18 months. All three are owned by the Chinese government.

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