Seizures come as US consumers flock to the Web for Cyber Monday shopping deals

Example of counterfeit site
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE)
Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 03:55 PM.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) teamed with 10 foreign law enforcement agencies to seize hundreds of domain names that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online to unsuspecting consumers.

The 706 domain names seized were set up to dupe consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods as part of the holiday shopping season. The operations were coordinated by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, D.C.

An iteration of Operation In Our Sites, Project Cyber Monday IV resulted in the seizure of 297 domain names from undercover operations conducted by HSI offices around the country. This is the fourth year that the IPR Center has targeted websites selling counterfeit products online in conjunction with Cyber Monday. Due to the global nature of Internet crime, the IPR Center partnered with Europol who, through its member countries, seized 393 foreign-based top-level domains as part of Project Transatlantic III. Additionally, Hong Kong Customs coordinated the seizure of 16 foreign-based top-level domains hosted in Hong Kong, enlisting the assistance of the web-hosting companies to suspend the service of related websites.

“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.”

During the weeks leading up to the end of the year, the market is flooded with counterfeit products being sold at stores, on street corners, and online, according to law enforcement officials, not only ripping off the consumer with shoddy products, but also putting their personal financial information at risk. The most popular counterfeit products seized each year include headphones, sports jerseys, personal care products, shoes, toys, luxury goods, cell phones and electronic accessories, according to the IPR Center.

“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.”

During the last few weeks, the IPR Center and its international partners received leads from trademark holders regarding the infringing websites. Those leads were disseminated to HSI offices in Denver, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and Salt Lake City as well as the Belgium Economic Inspection, Belgium Customs, Denmark Police, Hungarian Customs, French Gendarmerie, French Customs, Romanian Police, Spanish Guardia Civil, City of London Police, and Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department.



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