Federal investigators couldn’t have picked a better day – Cyber Monday – to pull the plug on 150 commercial websites scamming consumers with counterfeit and pirated goods. The U.S. Department of Justice announced the web-based coup as millions of shoppers hit their computers to snatch up post-Black Friday deals.
“Through this operation we are aggressively targeting those who are selling counterfeit goods for their own personal gain while costing our economy much-needed revenue and jobs,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.
It’s the second year in a row that such an operation has taken place in conjunction with Cyber Monday madness, but investigators nearly doubled their haul over 2010.
The shady sites sold everything from sports jerseys to bogus handbags and sunglasses. Investigators posed as customers, purchased a range of products and found they were counterfeit or otherwise obtained illegally. Most items were shipped from foreign countries, the DOJ said.
To cyber scammers, the holidays are prime hunting grounds, as consumers spend more time online scrounging up deals on gifts.
“More and more Americans are doing their holiday shopping online, and they may not realise that purchasing counterfeit goods results in American jobs lost, American business profits stolen and American consumers receiving substandard products,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Director John Morton. “And the ramifications can be even greater because the illicit profits made from these types of illegal ventures often fuel other kinds of organised crime.”
To protect yourself from getting duped by fraudulent sellers, shop on secure sites only.
Look for “https” in your browser rather than “http.” That little ‘s’ means the site has been security checked.
Check for red flags, like too many pop-up ads and cheesy-looking banners. If a site seems dated or fishy, it probably is. Do a quick online search of the site’s name to see if it’s been popped for selling counterfeit goods in the past.