Federal agents have seized and shut down 70 websites they claimed were illegally selling sophisticated counterfeit merchandise, including jewelry and other luxury items.
Some of the websites so closely resembled the legitimate websites that “it would be difficult for even the most discerning consumer to tell the difference,” a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement statement said.
According to a report in AFP, brands involved included Tiffany and Louis Vuitton, and in some cases the replicas were so realistic that the sites charged full retail price.
An image of a fake Tiffany site can be seen here.
The websites are now shut down and their domain names are in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to these websites will find a page that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them about copyright infringement. For example, visitors to one of the affected sites, tiffanyandcojewelrysale.net, now see this banner.
A new twist in this operation is that some of the websites seized in the operation used Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, which generally means the site safeguards financial information. Displaying these certificates not only misled consumers into thinking they were shopping on a legitimate website, ICE says, but potentially puts their financial information at risk.
These 70 domain name seizures bring the total number of domains seized by ICE in the last two years to 839.