Deceptive Online Clothing Stores Are Successful!

[Published 6/28/24] A couple of weeks ago we heard from a woman who had purchased clothing from an online women’s clothing store called VivienneDuvall.com. On May 15 this woman saw an advertisement for the online Vivienne Duvall store on her Facebook feed and liked what she saw. She clicked the link to visit the store and found a pair of pants that she liked, in several colors and for a great price. She picked out two pairs of pants and submitted her credit card for payment. Soon after, she received a confirmation email from the site that included a statement that orders can take 10 – 15 days to ship. She also received a tracking code and link to track her order.  Our investigation took a while and we also enlisted the help of a JavaScript coding expert named Louis to help us figure out if this site is legitimate or not. After all we’ve discovered, we’re sure this site is 100% DECEPTIVE! And, this bogus site led us to nine other very suspicious online women’s clothing stores as well. You may be surprised by some of the fraud we uncovered and the tricks they use to manipulate you, especially the star review system! We were surprised by how clever this deception is!

Below is a very busy graphic made from several screenshots. For example, it shows that the 10-15 day shipping policy is confirmed in their shipping policy web page.  As of June 27, it has been more than 5 weeks (40 days) and the woman still has not received her order! She has emailed the company at least twice and received replies. In their first reply they asked her to “be patient” and said that it is “on the way.”  At first, we were very suspicious of this site for several reasons. For example, their domain, vivienneduvall.com, was registered only 6 months before the woman contacted us, and just 5 months before she made her purchase. That’s very young for any business. Also, the Refund Policy web page had a couple of oddities that got our attention. For example, in their refund instructions there is a random “.com” text within it.  And they claim that “customers located outside of Europe are responsible for shipping costs.”  And yet, they don’t tell you where you will be expected to return your order! In fact, they NEVER identify their business location anywhere at all on their website! 

We found a number of other suspicious things on their website, in addition to the fact that everything was listed as 50% off. For example…..

  1. Their Contact page only contains an online form to fill in. There is no phone number or address for this company anywhere on the contact page, or anywhere on their website! That’s a big red flag!
  2. Under their “Help” menu they offer a link to “Tracking Order.” The link simply points to their Contact page. This is a seriously egregious error that any real company would spot and fix.
  3. On June 22 we checked their entire catalog and found only 9 items for sale! https://vivienneduvall.com/collections/all
  4. It appears that one of the images of their products listed on the VivienneDuvall.com website was found on a clothing website called Arolora.com. Arolora.com was registered in 2016, more than 8 years ago. Visit this page on Arolora about “Solid Crew Neck Long Sleeve Top” and scroll to the 4th image listed to see the same image. (See our note at the end of this article about the legitimacy of Arolora.com)


As if that wasn’t enough, we found something else that was very peculiar on one their product pages. For the product called “Asymmetric Draped Jumper” they show 864 reviews, which is an unbelievable number for a new online clothing store that sells 9 items. Moreover, we also saw “dark patterns” on the page that are intended to pressure visitors into making quick decisions to buy their products. They included statements like “selling out fast” and “sale is ending today.” And yet, we checked that product page for 7 days and each day it continued to say “sale is ending today.

But where the craziness truly begins is when we looked at some of those 864 reviews! (Only 5 reviews display per page.) As we scrolled through page after page of reviews, we saw that the OVERWHELMING majority of these reviews are 5-star! Oddly, several of these 5-star reviews are also customer complaints!  Some of these 5-star reviews even called this website a scam! Clearly this contradictory evidence suggested that something was very suspicious about these reviews. We decided to peek under the hood and determine the sources of these reviews.  We contacted a very skilled man named Louis who has a degree in website coding, and specifically, expertise in JavaScript. He agreed to investigate the code used to create the reviews on the VivienneDuvall.com website and what he uncovered was definitive proof that this site is a fraud!

Here, for example, are five 5-star reviews that all say “Verified purchase.” They only show a person’s first name. Louis showed us that the code for these reviews actually comes through a website called Trustoo.io which is then posted to Shopify and subsequently pushed onto the VivienneDuvall.com website. (Trustoo.io says that they are “the best choice for shopify product reviews.” They are a legitimate business that collects and manages reviews. HOWEVER, do they use any form of oversight to prevent bulk fake reviews from being uploaded to their site and then distributed through Shopify? We think not! We can show you that most of these reviews aren’t real! Check out the code Louis found on Trustoo.io and connected to Vivienne Duval via JavaScript in the screenshot below. It show’s an author “John” with an email address of “example@example.com.”  That seems suspicious, doesn’t it?

When Louis showed us that John’s 5-star, verified review, which included some text, listed the author email as example@example.com, we were suspicious and asked Louis to find us all author reviews with that email address.  He found hundreds of them! Louis was able to backtrack from the Vivienne Duvall website to the source of these reviews on Trustoo.io. Check out the screenshot below showing the code behind more than 20 of these 5-star reviews. They all have the same email address, are 5-stars and are marked as “verified.” Supporting our contention that these are fake reviews is the fact that hundreds of them were posted on the same date, May 14, 2023. This is also interesting because the domain VivienneDuvall.com was registered on January 12, 2024! This suggests that these fake reviews posted on May 14, 2023 were uploaded and posted on other websites, then subsequently posted on Vivienne Duvall after that business was created!

What also makes these many 5-star reviews so untrustworthy is the fact that some of them clearly show people who are unhappy with their products or the delivery of their products. Look carefully at the next screenshot below showing five 5-star reviews. A 5-star review from Robyn calls the website a scam and tells people not to buy products from it!  Our investigator Louis found that Robyn’s email was a real email address and not example@example.com.  We’ve blurred it to protect her identity.

In fact, when Louis used his skills to search behind the scenes for the Vivienne Duvall reviews that did not have an email address of example@example.com, we found a small bunch of VERY negative reviews submitted by real people and all of them appeared to give a 5-star review along with their criticism!

So how is it possible that VivienneDuvall.com shows HUNDREDS of 5-star, verified, bogus reviews? It appears that these reviews should be collected on Shopify and then delivered to Vivienne Duvall from the business site Trustoo.io. But Trustoo.io also shows their business customers how easy it is to import reviews on their own! (https://help.trustoo.io/detail/4)  It seems as though, the scammers who built Vivienne Duvall used this trick to import many hundreds of fake 5-star reviews AND set up their Shopify review process to assign 5-stars to all incoming subsequent reviews!

Earlier we stated that perhaps these many fake reviews uploaded to Trustoo.io on May 14, 2023 and posted on VivienneDuvall.com (after January 12, 2024), had also been posted on other fake websites. While searching Vivienne Duvall for inconsistencies, we found an email reference to a website called Invocy.comInvocy is another online clothing store that appears to be nearly identical to Vivienne Duvall. 

We also found several inconsistencies on the Invocy website, suggesting it is a fraud. The domain invocy.com was registered through a proxy service on October 13, 2023, making this online clothing store a little more than 8 months old. More importantly, TrustPilot.com gives Invocy.com a trust rating of 1.6 stars based on 22 reviews, posted as recently as June, 2024. The complaints are very similar to the complaints against Vivienne Duvall, including these 2 recent reviews…

We think it is highly likely that the cybercriminals behind VivienneDuvall.com are also responsible for creating the fake store Invocy.com and others!  Invocy also provides no phone number of address for their business. Through reverse image searches we found connections to another suspicious online clothing store called Xellorien.comXellorien.com was registered anonymously on March 13, 2024, making this clothing store a little more than 3 months old! Another sign of fraud on the Xellorien clothing website is the fact that they claim to offer up to 60% off.  Xellorien has also posted a TrustPilot graphic showing that their rating is 4.7 out of 5 stars, followed by seven 5-star reviews, all supposedly from people in Australia (as of 6/27/24). HOWEVER, we visited TrustPilot.com on June 27 and searched for Xellorien. TrustPilot came up empty, stating that they had no reviews whatsoever for this business.  If you read some of these seven reviews on Xellorien.com, you can find several subtle signs of awkwardly written English. For their business address, Xellorien shows an address in a small town in Czech Republic. Google shows us a small apartment at this address. But we believe this fraud goes much deeper than these 3 online clothing stores!  Using Google to search for several things unique to these bogus websites turned up links to 6 more very suspicious new online clothing stores….


            We hope you remember that we fell deep into this rabbit hole after a woman contacted us about a purchase she made on Vivienne Duvall’s website, but still hadn’t received after 40 days. This woman made her purchase using her American Express card and filed a dispute against the company. Within 2 days, American Express agreed and is giving her a refund. HOWEVER, what was also interesting was what she discovered from the details of her charge from Vivienne Duvall.  This bogus company listed an address on her American Express record as 30 North St, Sheridan, WY. We found an article from the Sheridan Press of Sheridan, Wyoming speaking about the fact that many fraudulent businesses were being registered through an agent at that address in Sheridan!


            You may wonder who is behind all of this fraud? We found two very important breadcrumbs that suggest that this massive amount of fraud is being perpetrated by cybercriminals from China. While our super-sleuth friend Louis was searching the behind-the-scenes code on the VivienneDuvall.com website, he found several words written in Chinese in the code. Also, the woman who made the purchase on May 15 received an email from Vivienne Duvall a tracking code and link to track her order. That code initially showed her order coming from China. The fact that we’ve been able to easily uncover a total of nine fraudulent online clothing websites made us wonder how long this cybercriminal group has been perpetrating this fraud.  We think this could be going on for many years! While conducting a reverse image search from images used on Vivienne Duvall, we found an online clothing store called Arolora.com.  Arolora.com was registered in April, 2016 – more than 8 years ago. We found several inconsistencies on their website as well, including some poor reviews or questionable ratings. This included mediocre trust ratings from Scamadviser.  Arolora also provides ONLY a contact form and email address to reach them. There is no address nor phone number.  And their Shipping Policy page is just plain weird! Hmmmmm…. It seems possible to us that the cybercriminal gang behind these fake online stores could be running this fraud for many years!  Our advice? Caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware! If it seems to good to be true, it is! Are you able to contact them by phone? Do you know where your order is coming from? And…. verify, VERIFY, VERIFY!

            IMPORTANT FOOTNOTE: The woman who placed the order for 2 pair of pants at VivienneDuvall.com actually received her pants 45 days after she ordered them, and days after filing her complaint with American Express! We still strongly believe that this company deceives consumers even though she received her pants. For example, she tells us that she didn’t like the material the pants were made from and she wants to send them back! We doubt that will be possible! Three days after emailing the company to ask for a return label, she’s had no reply whatsoever! Also, oddly, her package label on the pants shipment doesn’t show the name Vivienne Duvall. The label says that her package was shipped from Meng Zhao, 735 S. Figueroa St, Los Angeles, California 90017.  When we conducted a Google search for this name and business, we found this record on the Better Business Bureau website. It begins with an Alert stating “BBB learned this company is located is in Lativa.”  This is followed by 35 Customer Reviews giving this business a 1 star rating out of 5 stars and also 63 written complaints in the last 3 years, including 9 posted this May and June.  Reddit members have also posted some disparaging things about this company, including “toxic goods” (due to the odor) that were never ordered. On SafetyHQ.com, someone posted that they ordered a wig from a site called Luvme (that also used this Los Angeles address) and received the wrong order. Many other people are reporting incorrect items ordered and shipped, including this other post on SafetyHQ.com. Plenty of people are calling the Meng Zhao business a scam! The exact address of Meng Zhao has been listed as the address for yet another website for wigs called 1DayWigs.com. The BBB gives this wig creation business an F rating! 

             

            The fact that we’ve now been able to connect the Vivienne Duvall business to at least 12 other shady businesses simply supports our contention that these are all likely deceptive knockoff products at best, and a form of fraud at worst!