International law enforcers shut down more than 700 online stores selling counterfeit goods in Europe and the U.S. as part of an annual Cyber Monday piracy sting. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a press release outlining the successes of the operation, which appears to have borrowed its name from a low-budget action flick sequel:
Operation In Our Sites, Project Cyber Monday IV resulted in the seizure of 297 domain names from undercover operations conducted by (Homeland Security Investigations) HSI offices around the country. This is the fourth year that the IPR Center has targeted websites selling counterfeit products online in conjunction with Cyber Monday. Due to the global nature of Internet crime, the IPR Center partnered with Europol who, through its member countries, seized 393 foreign-based top-level domains as part of Project Transatlantic III. Additionally, Hong Kong Customs coordinated the seizure of 16 foreign-based top-level domains hosted in Hong Kong, enlisting the assistance of the web-hosting companies to suspend the service of related websites.
According to Variety, this year’s crackdown targeted sites selling NFL knockoff products, like nfl-go.com, redskins-online.com and nfl-web.com. Visitors to any of these sites will see a scroll highlighting the countries that participated in the domain’s seizure, and a brief statement explaining why the previously existing url was pulled down:
This domain name has been seized by ICE-Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District court under the authority of 18 U.S.C. § § 981 and 2323. Intentionally and knowingly trafficking in counterfeit goods is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders of up to ten years in federal prison, a $2,000,000 fine and restitution. (18 U.S.C. § 2320).
ICE reports that their agents bought a lot of sketchy product to seal the deal:
Federal law enforcement officers made undercover purchases of a host of products including professional sports jerseys and equipment, DVD sets and a variety of clothing, jewelry and luxury goods from online retailers who were suspected of selling counterfeit products. Upon confirmation by the trademark or copyright holders that the purchased products were counterfeit or otherwise illegal, law enforcement officers obtained seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold these goods.
Illegal retailers aren’t the only outlets trying to trick you on Cyber Monday, however. Legitimate retailers jack up prices before touting huge savings to make you feel like you’re buying a market-price item for cheap, and hackers prey on giddy shoppers by phishing for personal and financial information. This is just another reminder that when you're shopping online this holiday season, not all the deals are as good as they seem.