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By 17 August 2011 | Categories: news

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If the price of software advertised on local web sites seems too good to be true, it probably is. This is the message from Microsoft SA, which has warned of a boom in fake software being sold online to unwitting consumers – often with tragic results for the victims.
 
“There are many online sellers who have been caught selling counterfeit Microsoft software over the past year but, while it’s still a strong drive for Microsoft anti-piracy, this is becoming about more than just stopping crooks in their tracks,” says Microsoft’s small and mid-sized business and partner lead Mark Reynolds.
 
“These counterfeit products don’t work as advertised. Unsuspecting consumers are at risk of downloading or purchasing non-genuine software that can expose victims to spyware, malware and viruses that can lead to identity theft, loss of data, and system failures,” he says. “bidorbuy (www.bidorbuy.co.za) is the only site of its kind in South Africa that is proactively trying to protect their customers by collaborating with Microsoft to stop the sale of these counterfeit products.”
 
Over the past year, Microsoft has identified 18 sellers of counterfeit Windows, Office, Visio and Project software packages on biborbuy. The company made undercover test purchases acting on information received from victims or bidorbuy and took appropriate enforcement action against the online traders.
Operations manager at bidorbuy, Cuan Akal, says the company appreciates the challenges faced by companies like Microsoft and the dangers presented to consumers who might unknowingly be purchasing counterfeit software through sites like www.bidorbuy.co.za.
 
“bidorbuy, like other similar sites, serves mainly as a platform for people to sell their wares but that does not mean we condone, encourage or tolerate the listing of counterfeit software,” he says.
 
“With an average of 650 000 products listed on the site at any given time, manually checking that each and every product is an insurmountable task. Where bidorbuy differs from other sites of its kind is its willingness to highlight, monitor and track what we call ‘high risk’ categories – like software. Over the past few years we have solidified relationships with companies like Microsoft and together we believe we’re effecting change very successfully,” he continued.
 
Akal says bidorbuy’s monitoring team will flag any suspicious sales items found in these high risk categories based on a range of criteria, including price and the location of the seller. Once flagged, the seller’s items are immediately removed from the site. “The seller is then contacted and authenticity documentation is requested. In instances where authentication is provided, the seller’s items are reloaded and business continues as normal and, in cases where it is not, bidorbuy will blacklist that user from selling through the site and pass their information on to Microsoft.”
 
“The counterfeit software we are seeing in South Africa is primarily supplied through organised crime syndicates based in China,” said Dale Waterman, Microsoft’s corporate attorney for Anti-Piracy for the Middle East and Africa. “They reach out to local South African resellers using websites and spam techniques offering them discounted software. Criminal syndicates are therefore directly profiting from the sale of counterfeit software and consumers should be aware those proceeds are often fed back into crimes like drug running, money laundering and other nefarious crimes.
 
Microsoft’s Reynolds says: “It’s an on-going battle. Microsoft appreciates the efforts made by companies like bidorbuy, especially when you consider how difficult it is for an average consumer to distinguish between fake and authentic software. Most of the packages look legitimate, include fake hologram CDs and certificates of authenticity, are shrink-wrapped and contain all the relevant logos and branding – it’s only after the software is installed that the fake rears its ugly head.”

He advises that it is only in using genuine Microsoft software that users can feel confident that they have the latest features, security and support, which, in turn, deliver improved productivity and expanded PC capabilities. He urges consumers who are unsure to visit www.howtotell.com but concludes by saying that common sense should always prevail: “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” he says. 

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