ICE partners with industry to thwart fake COVID-19 goods

Amazon, Pfizer and 3M are among companies partnering with the US government to identify and block the sale of counterfeit coronavirus-related products.

The alliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will focus on interrupting the illicit trade in fake personal protective equipment (PPE), falsified and unlicensed pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and medical equipment, which has surged since the COVID-19 crisis started.

Other partners include Merck & Co, Citi and Alibaba, according to ICE, which says it is working with the companies to identify suspicious shipments and remove listings on online retail platforms for goods suspected to be counterfeit. The companies have agreed to share information and best practices with ICE.

In April, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched Operation Stolen Promise to prevent and investigate illegal criminal activity surrounding the pandemic, strengthen global supply-chain security and protect the American public. As of May 4, HSI had opened over 315 investigations nationwide related to this type of activity.

The operation has also resulted in the seizure of more than $3.2m in illicit proceeds, 11 arrests and the interception of 494 shipments of “mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorised or prohibited COVID-19 test kits, treatment kits, homeopathic remedies, purported anti-viral products and…PPE,” according to the federal agency.

It has also identified more than 19,000 suspect Covid-19-related domain names with help from the companies in the partnership and is working to take many of them offline.

3M, which is one of the world’s top manufacturers of face masks, said the partnership would “prevent fraud before it starts and stop it where it is happening.”

Online retail giant Amazon said that since the start of the pandemic it has blocked more than 6.5m products with inaccurate claims, removed over 1m offers for suspected price gouging and suspended more than 10,000 sellers, and referred the most egregious offenders to federal and state law enforcement.

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