International sting shuts down 706 fake good retail websites

Online shopping An international collaboration involving 11 law enforcement agencies has seized and shutdown 706 websites accused of selling fake goods.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) collaborated with 10 overseas agencies, including Europol, to stop the websites from selling fake products on Cyber Monday, the busiest online shopping day of the year.

The shutdowns were made after officials obtained court orders against 297 US-based internet domains.

"It was good old-fashioned police work. Once we have evidence from the copyright holder that the goods are fraudulent, we can go and get a seizure warrant signed by a federal magistrate," Justin Cole, a National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center spokesperson, told the Washington Times.

Europol worked with nine European agencies to seize 393 top-level domains, while Hong Kong officials shutdown a further 16. The global nature of online counterfeiting means the international collaboration, called Project Transatlantic III, is essential to stopping the sale of fake goods.

The shutdowns have stopped the sale of electronics, sportswear, jewelry and other commonly-counterfeited items. Officials from ICE and other agencies made undercover purchases of these goods to confirm the sites were selling counterfeits.

ICE has now seized 2,550 domains since beginning the In Our Sites operation in June 2010. When a user visits these sites, they are shown an ICE banner explaining the crime of copyright infringement. Such a banner is up on seized site The banner has now received 122 million individual views.

Officials anticipated a spike in visits to similar websites selling counterfeit goods as consumers searched for deals on Cyber Monday. "They prey on those around this time of year where people are actually looking for a good deal to buy," Homeland Security agent Jonathan Lines told

Adobe Systems estimates Cyber Monday sales of legitimate items rose 16 per cent to $2.29bn. This is based on activity at 2,000 U.S. retail sites. ICE recommends consumers shop at these leading, reputable websites to avoid buying counterfeits.

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