In an attempt to curb the rampancy of fraud throughout the holiday shopping season, a coalition of international law enforcement agencies seized 706 Internet domains allegedly involved in the sale of counterfeit merchandise.
The United States Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Coordination Center spearheaded the operation along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and ten law enforcement agencies from other countries and the European Union as well.
The campaign – dubbed Project Cyber Monday IV – is in its fourth year and is part of the ICE’s ongoing Operation in our Sites.
Among the domains seized, 297 were based in the U.S. and taken down by HSI, 393 were located inside the EU and taken down by Europol, and Hong Kong law enforcement took down 16 domains under its jurisdiction.
In a press release announcing the seizures on the ICE’s website, the agency claims that the last few weeks of the calendar year see online and physical marketplaces flooded with counterfeit goods. The negative impact of this, they claim, is two-fold: scammers are duping buyers with shoddy goods and consumers are putting their financial information at risk by purchasing from counterfeiters.
“Working with our international partners on operations like this shows the true global impact of IP crime,” said ICE Acting Director John Sandweg. “Counterfeiters take advantage of the holiday season and sell cheap fakes to unsuspecting consumers everywhere. Consumers need to protect themselves, their families, and their personal financial information from the criminal networks operating these bogus sites.”
The ICE didn’t mention it but, of course, counterfeit goods affect the bottom lines of businesses as well. In fact, the IRP center notes that the majority of the info they received leading to take downs came from the trademark holders that were being infringed upon.
The IPR center claims that the most commonly counterfeited goods are headphones, sports jerseys, personal care products, shoes, toys, luxury goods, cell phones, and electronic accessories. Law enforcement officials would buy these items undercover and verify that they were in fact counterfeits with the legitimate trademark and copyright holders before moving on domain seizures.
“This operation is another good example of how transatlantic law enforcement cooperation works. It sends a signal to criminals that they should not feel safe anywhere,” said Rob Wainwright, director of Europol. “Unfortunately the economic downturn has meant that disposable income has gone down, which may tempt more people to buy products for prices that are too good to be true. Consumers should realize that, by buying these products, they risk supporting organized crime.”
All of the domain names seized are under the control of the governments involved in the operation. Visitors to those sites will see a banner informing them of why the site has been taken offline and warning them that willful copyright infringement is a violation of federal law.