WASHINGTON — Federal authorities on Thursday said there is growing concern about the sophisticated nature of counterfeit Web sites, as they announced the seizure of 70 sites they allege were illegally selling thousands of fake products, including clothing, jewelry and other luxury goods, as part of an operation dubbed “Project Copy Cat.”
Counterfeits of several fashion brands were being sold on the illegal sites, including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Tory Burch, Tiffany, True Religion and Burberry, according to U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement officials. A sample of the bogus fashion domain names seized included louisvuittononlineoutlet2012.net, tiffanyandcojewelrysale.net, usa-jeansoutlet.com, usa-truereligionjean.com, ukfashionoutletmall.com, chanel2outlet.com, tory-burchoutletsclearance.com and bpuma.com.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center spearheaded the operation in conjunction with field offices in Denver, El Paso, Houston, Newark and Salt Lake City. U.S. Attorneys’ offices in the Western and Southern Districts of Texas, and Districts of New Jersey, Colorado and Utah issued the warrants for the seizures.
Officials said the domains “closely mimicked legitimate Web sites selling authentic merchandise and duped consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods.”
“This operation targeted criminals making a buck by trying to trick consumers into believing they were buying name-brand products from legitimate Web sites when in fact they were buying counterfeits from illegal but sophisticated imposter sites located overseas,” said ICE director John Morton. “The imposter sites were simply a fraud from start to finish and served no purpose other than to defraud and dupe unwary shoppers.”
An ICE spokeswoman said: “This is the next generation of IPR theft and consumer fraud. I think in some cases when we are talking about buying counterfeit goods online, the sites are not as sophisticated. There are misspellings of names or things that are more obvious indicators that you may be buying counterfeit products, in addition to the price being significantly lower. But in these cases, the sites are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing and prices are either at retail value or slightly lower, so legitimate consumers who are buying online think they are buying the right thing…at a valid site.”
She said that in many cases consumers never received the products from the operators and those that did received “cheap counterfeit products.”
Authorities said they uncovered a new, more sophisticated component of the fraudulent sites used to further fool consumers into believing they were making purchases from legitimate sites — the display of Secure Sockets Layer certificates that provide authentication for financial information. SSL certificates are meant to reassure consumers that they are sending sensitive financial information to the intended server and not an illegal server. In addition to providing authentication, legitimate SSL certificates also provide encryption that “enhances the security of credit card numbers, user names, passwords and other sensitive information,” authorities said.
The operation was part of a larger initiative known as “Operation In Our Sites,” launched two years ago. The seizure of 70 domain names brings the total number to 839. Of the previous 769 names seized, 229 have been forfeited to the U.S. government.
A seizure banner is posted on each Web domain name and public service announcements are linked from the seizure banner on each of the 229 forfeited Web sites, which are designed to educate the public about the economic impact of counterfeiting.
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)