UK crackdown on piracy culls 4,300 Facebook listings

Operation JasperNational Trading Standards in the UK has clamped down on counterfeit and pirated goods sold via Facebook in its largest-ever enforcement operation.

Operation Jasper took place over 12 weeks and targeted criminals who “exploit social media channels to sell dangerous and counterfeit goods and commit copyright theft,” said NTS, which collaborated on the exercise with the National Markets Group.

The crackdown has seen officers raid 12 premises, take down 4,300 Facebook listings, 20 Facebook profiles, issue over 200 warning letters and deliver 24 cease and desist letters at the homes of suspected Facebook sellers.

“Operation Jasper has struck an important psychological blow against criminals who believe they can operate with impunity on social media platforms without getting caught,” said Lord Toby Harris, NTS’ chair.

“It shows we can track them down, enter their homes, seize their goods and computers and arrest and prosecute them, even if they are operating anonymously online.”

During the operation officers seized a range of dangerous or toxic products, ranging from Android TV boxes with unsafe mains chargers - which allowed illegal streaming of movies and sports channels - to several hundreds of counterfeit Cinderella dolls containing high levels of toxic phthalates.

A raid on a residential premise in the West Midlands led to the discovery and seizure of a small manufacturing plant turning out counterfeit T-shirts. Two more residential premises in Worcester contained a host of counterfeit packaged computers, tablets, mobile phones, T-shirts, tracksuits and trainers.

These premises have been linked to part of Manchester’s Cheetham Hill area, commonly known as ‘Counterfeit Street’.

According to the UK’s latest IP Crime Report 2013/14, social media has overtaken auction sites as criminals’ channel-of-choice for counterfeit and piracy activity.

Copycat websites

Meanwhile, NTS is once again warning consumers to be vigilant about ‘copycat’ websites - and to report suspect sites - following the arrest of five people this week. The sites were charging the public a premium for government services that are available more cheaply on the website, such as renewing driving licenses or passports or obtaining EU health insurance cards.

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