Christmas shoppers are once again in danger of being tricked into buying pirated copies of the latest computer games.
According to the Crime Unit of the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (Elspa), many gamers could be fooled into buying the fakes because they are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
Elspa discovered a stash of 3000 fake computer games in Essex and indicated that a further 3000 counterfeit discs could be in circulation in the UK. The pirated copies, which include Tomb Raider III and FIFA '99, are in PC format, full coloured and shrink wrapped.
Terry Anslow, chief investigator at Elspa, said: "In terms of packaging, these fakes are the best that I have ever seen. Many people know when they are buying pirated games because of the poor quality of the packaging. With these copies, the quality of the packaging and the relatively high price, around £20, will mean that shoppers do not suspect they are dodgy."
An investigation began earlier this year after one shopper was duped into buying a fake Tomb Raider III copy in Kent. A factory in Taiwan is under investigation. Raids at premises in Essex and the South of England lead to the discovery of nearly 3000 counterfeit games.
Paul Henderson, UK security manager at Electronic Arts, said: "The appearance of these counterfeit games were of a very high standard not normally associated with a pirate product. We only hope that other members of the public are alerted to this before they are duped into buying the copies that slipped through the net before we were made aware of the problem."
Elspa estimates that over £3 billion is lost every year in the UK to software pirates.
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