Washington: The US and European authorities on Tuesday said that they have seized 132 websites for allegedly selling counterfeit merchandise from fake Nike sneakers to Oakley sunglasses.
These websites were set up to dupe consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods as part of the holiday shopping season.
The 132 domain names seized are part of Project Cyber Monday 3 and Project Transatlantic.
"This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the IPR Center," John Morton, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director, said.
"Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world. This is not an American problem, it is a global one and it is a fight we must win," he said.
The domain names seized are now in the custody of the governments involved in these operations.
Visitors typing those domain names into their Web browsers will now find a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the federal crime of wilful copyright infringement.
In addition to the domain name seizures, officials identified PayPal accounts utilised by the infringing websites.
PayPal is a global e-commerce business allowing payments and money transfers to be made through the Internet.
Proceeds received through the identified PayPal accounts, in excess of USD 175,000, are currently being targeted for seizure by the investigating Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) field offices.
"These websites sold products representing 41 different rights holders of US companies, everything from Ergo baby carriers to New Era hats, Nike sneakers, Tiffany jewelry, Oakley sunglasses, and NFL jerseys just to name a few. Even counterfeit Adobe software was for sale," Morton told foreign journalists at a news conference.
Morton said these seizures underscore the lessons of online shopping for all at this time of the holidays.
"Remember, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Know your supplier, know your seller, research the seller or the website from which you intend to make a purchase, look at all of the web pages," Morton said.
"If you see misspellings, if you see addresses on a site that pretends to be about Tiffany, but the return policy addresses is used some place in China, well you`re on notice that trouble is afoot," he said.
"Educate yourself on the exact logo, the hardware, and the stitching of whatever you`re considering to make sure that you`re getting what you think you`re getting. Don`t conduct business with an anonymous user," he added.
Morton said once the websites have been forfeited, they put up a banner that notifies the public going to that domain name that the website has been seized, and that it was seized for a violation of federal law.