Europol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) teamed with ten law enforcement agencies from eight countries to seize hundreds of domain names today that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online to unsuspecting consumers.
The 690 domain names seized are part of project ‘In Our Sites - Transatlantic 3’. These websites were set up to dupe consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit products. The operation was coordinated by Europol for the participating EU Member States and the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, D.C. for the US.
The US ICE IPR Center accounted 297 domain name seizures in the US. Through Europol Member States, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hungary, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom 393 domain names were seized. This year, operations were also conducted by Hong Kong Customs
“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 spirit of shoppers around the world 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, not only ripping the consumer off and providing 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.
During the last few weeks Europol and the IPR Center 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.
“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. 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,” says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
The domain names seized are now in the custody of the governments involved in these operations. Visitors typing those domain names into their Web browsers will now find a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the federal crime of willful copyright infringement.
Project ‘In Our Sites’ is a sustained law enforcement initiative that began more than three years ago to protect consumers by targeting the sale of counterfeit merchandise on the Internet. The 297 domain names seized under Operation In Our Sites 3 - Transatlantic bring the total number of IOS domain names seized to 2.550 since the operation began in June 2010.