The FBI shut down 150 websites authorities said they believed were selling counterfeit goods.
“The theft of intellectual property, to include the trafficking of counterfeit goods, creates significant financial losses,” FBI Cyber Division Section Chief Zack Miller said. “The FBI aggressively pursues intellectual property enforcement through traditional investigative methods, intelligence initiatives and coordinated efforts with private industry and domestic and foreign law enforcement partners.”
The federal government controls the 150 domains that were seized and a banner appears on the sites that they have been taken over due to copyright infringement.
The FBI said they made undercover purchases of counterfeit sports jerseys, golf equipment, handbags, DVDs and more. The FBI was joined in the operation by Immigration and Customs Border Control and the Department of Homeland Security.
Tom Taylor, president of brand protection for OpSec Security in Boston (which works to protect brands from counterfeiting) welcomed the move and its timing.
"The action taken today is a step in the right direction. As more people turn to the Internet for their holiday shopping, more counterfeiters move their operations online, finding ways to trick consumers into buying fake products," he said. "The sale of counterfeit goods leads to losses in business profits, jobs, and can impact consumer safety and well-being. The Immigration and Customs Border Control seizures for Cyber Monday have added more ammunition in combating this illicit activity and have helped to increase awareness about the issues surrounding counterfeiting and the ramifications of those sellers involved."
Taylor said consumers should still be aware that counterfeiting is going on and that it can be more difficult to tell with so many legitimate products on sale.
Some tips from OpSec:
- While the Internet has given counterfeiters a way to reach consumers, it has also provided the opportunity for buyers to share information on whether or not a reseller is providing authentic wares.
- Check the logo: A common indicator of counterfeit goods is a misspelling or distortion to a label or logo. When purchasing a product, know the logo of the desired brand and look for any sort of variation on the product in question.
- Research the product before purchasing: When purchasing luxury goods, such as a watch or jewelry, knowing the features and design on the product is advised. This is especially important when buying from a reseller. Having a picture of the genuine product on hand is helpful in identifying suspicious attributes that would indicate that the product is counterfeit.
- Research where the product is made: Some luxury products are made in Europe while other brands are manufactured in Asia. Researching where a brand’s main manufacturing facilities are located can help determine the authenticity of a product. The Far East is a known hub for counterfeit products. If a brand’s manufacturing facilities are located in Europe, but the product is toting a “Made in China” label, this should raise suspicion.
- Are there missing components and information? Oftentimes, counterfeit electronics are sold without necessary and important items ranging from USB cords, instructions, warranty information, and missing serial numbers on the product or packaging. Checking all contents of the product before purchasing will decrease the likelihood of buying a counterfeit product.
- Is it a legitimate model? Some consumer electronic brands have an extensive list of models. Counterfeiters may attempt to pass off a non-existing model number as an authentic product. Check whether the product model is sold by the official manufacturer. If it does not exist on the manufacturer’s catalog or website, it is a sure sign it is a fake.
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About the author
Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com