Feds Shut Down 150 Websites in Counterfeit Probe

U.S. officials used Cyber Monday to announce court orders shutting down 150 domain names of commercial websites they say were selling “many millions” of dollars worth of counterfeit goods. Sports jerseys and uniforms, DVDs, shoes and handbags, golf sets and exercise equipment were among the more popular purchases of “knock off” versions of name brand products, officials said.

Investigations show the majority of those engaged in defrauding rights-holding companies and consumers are from China, but the phony goods are also produced in other countries, according to top law enforcement officials. The officials say they conduct undercover purchases with the help of legitimate rights holders to confirm the goods are bogus.

They acknowledge the operators of the websites are beyond the reach of U.S. agents, and when the sites selling counterfeit goods are shut down, the same criminal enterprises sometimes simply change domain names and continue to prey on customers. Officials are concerned that some of the millions of dollars in proceeds may end up in the hands of organized crime.

The government places banners on the seized websites explaining why they were shut down. Last year, the banners registered 77 million hits, so authorities are hopeful public awareness of the criminal nature of the problem is increasing.

Beyond clothing and electronic knock-offs, he said, officials are especially worried about the threat to safety and health when counterfeit goods involve such things as air bags, drugs, car batteries and engine parts. They encourage consumers to be on the lookout for misleading labels and spelling errors to avoid getting ripped off.


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