Investigators from around the world worked together to seize hundreds of domain names Monday being used to sell counterfeit merchandise online.
Law enforcement agencies from eight countries partnered to take down 690 domain names seized as part of an ongoing operation called ‘In Our Sites – Transatlantic 3.’ The operation was coordinated by Europol for the participating EU Member States as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) for the US.
According to Europol, the websites were set up to trick customers into buying counterfeit products. The 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. Operations were also conducted this year by Hong Kong Customs as well.
“Working with our international partners on operations like this shows the true global impact of IP Crime,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director John Sandweg, in a statement. “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 last few weeks Europol and the IPR Center received leads from trademark holders regarding the infringing websites that were disseminated to HSI offices in Denver, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and Salt Lake City as well as the partnering law enforcement agencies internationally.
The most popular counterfeit products seized each year include headphones, sports jerseys, personal care products, shoes, toys, luxury goods, cell phones and electronic accessories. The domain names that were seized are now in the custody of the governments involved in the operation.
“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, in a statement. “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.”
Some 2,550 domain names seized since the operation began in June 2010.