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.
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@Pharrell and his wife Helen Lasichanh were among the stars that came out to celebrate @rimowa’s first pop-up concept shop. The space, which is located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, draws inspiration from airport luggage carousels and lounge areas – and features the company’s luggage and accessories. If the pop-up is successful it could pave the way for addition temporary shops throughout the world. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA)
@carineroitfeld celebrated @crfashionbook’s first calendar last night with a dinner party at Spring Place in Manhattan. Photographed by @stevenkleinstudio, the calendar takes on a fitness theme and features @joansmalls, @gigihadid, @danielle_herrington_ – pictured here – and more. “[Carine Roitfeld] wanted me to feel sexy and she wanted me to be myself and feel it out on my own and do what I felt was right,” said Herrington, aka Miss October. #wwdeye
@saintrecords and @virgilabloh last night at @americanexpress’ “A Night With Success Makers” event. “I always bring it back to community because without that I wouldn’t have the courage,” said Knowles when asked how she has gotten where she is now. Read more highlights from their conversation on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lizdoupnik)
This Just In: Industry sources have told WWD that Anastasia Soare is rumored to be considering selling her beauty business, @anastasiabeverlyhills. According to those sources, Soare has tapped investment bank Imperial Capital to explore sale options for her eponymous beauty brand –– and with at least $340 million in net sales, this would be a big deal. Put in context of other recent transactions for makeup companies, Soare’s price tag could be in the billions if she were to sell the whole thing. #wwdnews #wwdbeauty (📷: @clint_spaulding)
@assouline’s latest book, “The Spirit of Bentley: Be Extraordinary” captures the adventurous attitudes and opulent lifestyles of @bentleymotors’ most creative owners and enthusiasts throughout the U.K. The 292-page hardcover has a section dedicated to showing its team of skilled artisans and photos of its most colorful owners, from George Bamford to designer @alicetemperley, pictured here by Aline Coquelle. #wwdeye
@google released its report on the most popular search terms this year. For fashion brands, the list was led by @gucci, the luxury brand that stunned the market last October when it pledged to stop using fur. Runner ups were @supremenewyork and @fashionnova, along with more established brands like @louisvuitton, @chanelofficial and @ysl. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)