EU, US officials seize 292 domain names to protect consumers during holiday season

Since 2012, law enforcement officials have seized 1829 sites that sell counterfeit goods

The holiday season is rife with online rip-offs. In a move to protect consumers, law enforcement officials have seized 292 domain names for sites that allegedly were selling counterfeit goods.

The sites were being used to illegally sell counterfeit merchandise including luxury goods, sportswear, electronics, pharmaceuticals and pirated goods like movies and music, Europol said Monday.

The European Union's law enforcement agency coordinated the seizure with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and 25 law enforcement agencies from 19 countries.

According to the organizations, counterfeiters take advantage of the holiday season to sell cheap fake goods to unsuspecting consumers everywhere. "Consumers need to protect themselves, their families, and their personal financial information from the criminal networks operating these bogus sites," said Bruce Foucart, acting director of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, DC, according to the Interpol release.

Law enforcement officials have working since August on tips from trademark holders that led to the seizure of the domains. They are now in the custody of the governments of the countries involved in the operation, Interpol said. Visitors will not be able to access the related sites and will on some occasions see a banner message notifying them that copyright infringement is a crime.

The seizure of the domain names was part of Operation In our Sites, a U.S. initiative that began in 2012, and brought the total number of seized sites to 1,829.

The law enforcement agencies involved in the operation are encouraging consumers to report counterfeit products and the websites selling them "because counterfeiting crimes result in many victims." Sales of counterfeit products can cause revenue and tax losses, unemployment, environmental, health and safety issues for humans and animals, while also aiding human exploitation and child labor, they said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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