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Over a Million Websites Seized in Global Operation

A joint international operation has seized 33,654 domain names distributing counterfeit and pirated items online. Over the past year, the domain names were criminally seized in a collaborative effort between ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Europol, Interpol and police agencies from 26 different countries. Industry partners participating in the operation were responsible for civilly seizing 1.21 million domain names in total and shutting down 2.2 million erroneous ecommerce links featured on social media platforms and third-party marketplaces.

The investigations led by HSI resulted in the removal of copyright-infringing websites that sold counterfeit airbags and integrated sensors, both commodities that present a potential safety hazard. An investigation based in Louisiana led to the seizure of five website domain names – including Chinaseatbelt.com; Airbagpart.com; Chinasafetybelt.com; Fareurope.com; and Far-europe.com – involved in the sale of fake automotive parts. A joint case between HSI and Department of Defense investigative agencies resulted in the removal of PRBlogics.com, a copyright-infringing website offering counterfeit integrated sensors.

The joint operation, known as In Our Sites (IOS) is a continuation of a recurrent global operation, which was launched in 2014 and has since significantly increased. The ninth edition of this worldwide operation in 2018 saw an even larger range of anti-counterfeiting associations, brand owner representatives and law enforcement authorities taking part to facilitate international cooperation and support the countries involved in this initiative. This year’s operation has seen a remarkable increase from the previous edition, where 20,520 domain names were seized as they were illegally trading counterfeit merchandise online.

In addition to the seized domain names, officials also arrested 12 suspects, blocked hardware devices, identified and froze more than EUR 1 million in several bank accounts, online payment platforms and a virtual currency farm used by the organized criminal groups.

To continuously raise awareness of this growing threat, Europol launched the campaign “Don’t F***(ake) Up”. The campaign informs citizens of the risks of buying fake products online and provides forthright advice to help identify illicit websites that sell counterfeit goods, as well as other means used by counterfeiters, such as fake social media accounts and fake apps.

Each year, the market is flooded with counterfeit products being sold at stores, on street corners and online. Additionally, criminals have taken advantage of the internet to deceive, sell and ship fake products directly to consumers. The most popular counterfeit products seized each year include watches, jewelry, handbags, wallets, wearing apparel/accessories, consumer electronics/parts, pharmaceuticals and personal care products.

 

Kylie Bielby has 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. She is an editor and contributor for Jane's by IHS Markit, a columnist for security and counter-terror publications, and a former managing editor for Homeland Security Today.

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