Pharmaceutical companies spend $19 billion a year on advertising, according to this wikipedia article on the pharma industry.
That creates a lot of brand awareness in the minds of consumers who are convinced they are depressed, anxious, or maybe need to get it up more often.
So if you’re a budding illegal online pharmacy, maybe even selling counterfeit drugs, just how do you tap into that market when you are running your little fake pill shop from Romania?
It’s pretty easy actually.
All you do is buy up some typo domains of those big brands, and the customers will start to pour in.
How do they do it? Well some are doing it quietly behind the scenes, while others are happily explaining it on hacker forums like this one did. Btw if that thread has been removed, it’s because they don’t appreciate the credit I’m giving them. Never mind, I have a screenshot here for you:
Having a basket full of typo domains is better than spamming your inbox for Viagra every 2 minutes, because:
- the traffic is highly converting (consumers searching for your brand)
- the cost is low ($9 for a domain per year)
- the brand owners are clueless to what is going on, so you quietly make sales right under their noses, essentially stealing their sales and damaging their brand
Think it’s not common? Think again.
Just recently Homeland Security seized 686 domains related to counterfeit drug sales.
According to this one single Homeland Security press release, this is going on all the time 24/7:
“A global enforcement effort, Pangea is an annual operation aimed at disrupting the organized crime networks behind the illicit online sale of fake drugs. Worldwide, preliminary results show Pangea has accounted for 79 arrests and the seizure of 3.7 million doses of potentially life-threatening counterfeit medicines worth an estimated value of $10.5 million. Additionally, approximately 18,000 websites engaged in illegal sale of counterfeit drugs were taken down.”
So let’s say your some pharmacy like, oh say AllPharmacyPills.com (disclaimer – I have no idea if this is a legit pharmacy site), a site that has covered up their whois info with a privacy setting, is on a server in Romania, and has some other *cough cough* sites on that server such as:
You go out and get some typo domains of the different pill brands you’re selling, e.g. levitracom.com, which is a common mistake people make when typing “levitra.com” on the address bar, and miss the “.” so they type levitracom and then the browser adds the .com to it, so the domain levitracom.com is searched…
So instead of levitra.com (owned by Bayer AG, the Pharma company selling levitra)… our limp and credit card ready consumer arrives on levitracom.com:
So they order, and maybe get their pills.. and maybe they actually work.
But in most cases, these online pharmacies are selling really bad versions of the drug, or they have expired, or they simply are fake. They don’t risk much backlash from the unsuspecting consumers, because who are you going to call on Saturday night when your “get hard” pill isn’t working? Romanian police?
Now according to the PharmaTimes, more needs to be done re counterfeit drugs.
No kidding. Here’s a suggestion for pharma companies: “Get a Typo Assassin account and stop the sales from the source – by identifying the typo domains that these fake pharmacies are using”. Then it’s a matter of reporting them to the authorities who will shut them down, as part of their various Interpol operations.
Our system would have caught levitracom.com – here’s proof with a screenshot of our TypoAssassin engine report:
So if you’re a big pharma company, what are you waiting for?