As many Americans are still trying to recover from the Thanksgiving holiday, the U.S. federal government has been busy cracking down on some would-be cyber criminals. The U.S. Department of Justice reported today, that the U.S. has seized 150 websites. The operation was a joint venture between the Department of Justice and several other agencies including the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), and the FBI Washington Field Office. They targeted websites engaged in “illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works”.
As a result of this operation, 150 websites were seized. The Department of Justice didn’t announce those that were seized however, Reuters mentioned a few. When you go to any of the seized websites you are greeted with the following picture.
ICE Director, John Morton stated,For most, the holidays represent a season of good will and giving, but for these criminals, it’s the season to lure in unsuspecting holiday shoppers”. Many people are tricked into buying goods from websites that offer “too good to be true” deals. Assistant Attorney General, Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said, We will not tolerate those who seek to profit by abusing the Internet and stealing intellectual property at the expense of authors, artists and inventors. The Department of Justice will continue to work aggressively to combat intellectual property crime.
During this operation, federal agents made several undercover purchases of a variety of products including, sports apparel, DVD’s, handbags, and sunglasses. These items were then scrutinized by the Trademark holders to see if they were counterfeit or not. If they turned out to be counterfeit seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold the goods and associated websites were obtained from federal magistrate judges. Most of the goods were shipped from suppliers in other countries.
This operation will be an ongoing part of a larger operation called “Operation In Our Sites”. According to the Department of Justice website, this is the eight phase of “a sustained law enforcement initiative to protect consumers by targeting counterfeit and piracy on the Internet”.
Counterfeit operations affects us all more than you might think. A lot of good jobs are at stake from the loss of revenue due to these counterfeiters. The worst case scenario is that these rogue sites could be funding illegal crime organizations. So bottom line, try to educate yourself about these type of schemers. If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. It is best to stick with reputable vendors with name recognition, although this isn’t always a guarantee.