Cyber Monday sting seizes 132 counterfeit-selling sites

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order

ICE logoAgents in the US and Europe celebrated the Cyber Monday online shopping blitz by seizing 132 domain names and shutting down dozens of sites that were allegedly selling counterfeit or falsely labeled goods to unsuspecting buyers.

This is the third year for the sting, codenamed Project Cyber Monday 3, and the first year that a roster of European countries took part, in what they dubbed Project Transatlantic.

In the US, Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents went undercover to buy jerseys emblazoned with the copyrighted logos of pro sports teams and, according to CNN, familiar name-brand products such as Ergobaby Carriers, New Era hats, Nike sneakers, Tiffany jewelry, Oakley sunglasses, NFL jerseys, and Adobe software.

Law enforcement turned the merchandise over to the copyright holders to confirm whether the purchased products were counterfeit or otherwise illegal.

They then secured seizure orders from federal magistrate judges for the domain names of the websites that sold the goods.

As it is, it's often impossible for consumers to know whether a site is genuine, given how slick the counterfeiters are getting at mimicking or duplicating legitimate sites.

John Morton, director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told CNN that some products may fool customers, but some are easily spotted as ripoffs.

One site, for example, sold a DVD titled "100 Years of Disney." The Walt Disney Company was founded in 1923, Morton noted—less than 100 years ago.

fake: Take Down: Cyber Monday sting seizes 132 counterfeit-selling sites

Agents from Belgium, Denmark, France, Romania and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Police Office (Europol), took part. The US nabbed the most bogus sites, taking over 101 US-based domains, while European authorities took control of 31.

More sites could still be added to the list, as further action is in the works, the agencies said.

The governments who took part in the sting now have custody of the seized domain names. Visitors to the sites will encounter a banner notifying them of the seizure and educating them about the federal crime of willful copyright infringement.

Now that they've shuttered the cyber stores, they're after the cash. Homeland Security Investigations offices are looking to seize more than $175,000 in PayPal accounts used by the counterfeiting sites.

PayPal is happy to comply.

Tod Cohen, vice president and deputy general counsel of Government Relations for eBay Inc., said in a statement that eBay and PayPal "couldn't be more pleased" to slap down holiday-exploiting crooks:

"We couldn't be more pleased with the opportunity to work closely with HSI to shut down criminals targeting our customers and our brand just as the holiday season takes off. PayPal and eBay Inc. pride ourselves in going above and beyond in the fight against the illegal online trafficking of counterfeit goods by partnering with law enforcement and rights owners globally, and we hope that this is fair warning to criminals that the Internet is not a safe place to try and sell fake goods."

Over the three years that this operation has been running, the US has seized 1,529 domain names, of which 684 have now been forfeited to the government.

The federal forfeiture process grants a period of time to allow individuals to contest the forfeiture.

If nobody steps up to claim a seized domain, it becomes the property of the US government.

To avoid getting scammed by counterfeiters, Morton advised online shoppers to research websites before making purchases.

He told CNN:

"Do your homework. Know your supplier. … At the end of the day, trust your instincts. This is probably your best line of defense, so don't reason away your intuition simply for the sake of an extra dollar or two."

It's a fake and Take down images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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3 Responses to Cyber Monday sting seizes 132 counterfeit-selling sites

  1. Machin Shin · 1007 days ago

    This is great except maybe before you go praising the US government over this, you should take a look into this program. They are not allowing people to contest these forfeitures and the people are getting no warning before their site is shut down.

    Imagine if you ran a store and one day you come and find the doors nailed shut and a huge bright red sign plastered with government logos saying that your store is now closed for selling counterfeits. No warning, no chance to plead your case, just closed. Now tell me, what good will it do to fight it now? All your customers are now coming and seeing that big sign. Even if you clear your name your business is destroyed because you can never rebuild the damage that is done.

  2. Rory · 1007 days ago

    Its all a big fuss over nothing. These criminals will just go and make another site and continue all over again. To get anywhere with this, is to locate the registered owners of these scam sites and jail them for fraud. Only then will any sort of impact be heard. But there should not be any false positives and many a site could lose their reputation and business over them. Alot of research should be done and only when they are 100% that the said site is operating as a scam site should action be taken to stop them.

  3. William · 1003 days ago

    If you really care about security, shoudn't the domains be shut down, rather than redirected to a government server without a proper privacy policy?

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.