On what has become the largest online sales shopping day of the year, this year's Cyber Monday has seen more than 100 websites shut down by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.
In an announcement released Monday, ICE officials, along with law enforcement agencies in Europe, initiated "Project Cyber Monday 3" and "Project Transatlantic" operations. The European countries involved with the operations include Belgium, Denmark, France, Romania and the United Kingdom, as well as members of the European Police Office (Europol).
A total of 132 domain names were seized on Monday for allegedly selling counterfeit merchandise online. According to the announcement, these websites were set up with the purpose of luring consumers to a website that looks nearly identical to the original. The website operators then wait for unsuspecting shoppers to purchase counterfeit items that buyers believe to be legitimate. The operation was coordinated by the ICE HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, D.C.
John Morton, Director of ICE, issued a statement saying:
"This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the [Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center]. Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world. This is not an American problem, it is a global one and it is a fight we must win."
Morton said there was a wide variety of counterfeit items being sold:
“Everything from Ergobaby carriers to New Era hats, Nike sneakers, Tiffany jewelry, Oakley sunglasses and NFL jerseys, just to name a few. Counterfeit Hermes purses, Christian Louboutin shoes and various Nike apparel, all of it fake, all of it substandard.”CBS Los Angeles is reporting that two Southern California-based Internet businesses were shut down on suspicion of selling counterfeit Adobe software. Staxxs on Deck, an internet company based in San Diego was also shut down for allegedly selling counterfeit Nike footwear.
When consumers visit websites targeted by ICE, they are met with a message alerting visitors that the website has been seized by ICE-Homeland Security Investigations.
A website seized by ICE on Cyber Monday 2012
ICE officials are also working with PayPal in an attempt to seize in excess of $175,000 in funds associated with the websites selling the counterfeit goods. ICE officials noted that unsuspecting consumers may not only be buying fake items, but that they are providing credit card and other financial information to individuals involved in fraudulent behavior.
Morgan told Yahoo! News:
"When IP rights are violated, jobs are lost, businesses are stolen and ultimately consumers are cheated. Remember, counterfeiters care about making money and only about making money. They don't care about the consumers who purchase the products."