During the biggest online shopping day of the year with consumers estimated to spend $1.5 billion, federal officials teamed up with European law enforcement agencies to shut down over 130 websites hawking illegal counterfeit items on the internet.
Project Cyber Monday 3 marks the third year in a row that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has shut down the websites selling counterfeit goods.
“Everything from Ergobaby 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,” ICE Director John Morton said during a conference call with reporters.
ICE’s The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and Homeland Security Investigations partnered with EUROPOL, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, to take down the 101 websites on U.S. internet servers and 31 websites with European domain names.
“Counterfeit Hermes purses, Christian Louboutin shoes and various Nike apparel, all of it fake, all of it substandard,” Morton said about the quality of the knock-off items.
According to figures from the Commerce Department intellectual property (IP) theft costs U.S. industries an estimated $200 billion to $250 billion annually.
“When IP rights are violated, jobs are lost, businesses are stolen and ultimately consumers are cheated. Remember, counterfeiters care about making money and only about making money. They don’t pay health care. They don’t pay pensions. They don’t pay taxes. They don’t care about the people that work for them and they don’t, frankly, care about the consumers who purchase the products,” Morton said.
ICE obtained court orders to shut the websites down after investigators purchased items from the websites and verified that the items were knock-offs. No arrests were announced as part of the cyber-Monday crackdown but Morton said the cases were ongoing and could lead to prosecutions.
Along with the website seizures ICE has also worked with PayPal to attempt to seize funds associated with the websites selling the counterfeit goods. Officials will not reveal how many PayPal accounts have been seized citing the ongoing investigation but noted that accounts in excess of $175,000 have been targeted. ICE officials noted that unsuspecting consumers may not only be buying fake items, but that they are providing credit card and other financial information to fraudsters.