Europol and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have seized around 700 domain names that were being used to sell counterfeit goods online to unsuspecting customers.

The seizures came as part of the ‘In Our Sites – Transatlantic 3’ project, which saw 297 domain names taken in the US and 393 in the EU Member nations of Denmark, Spain, France, Romania, the UK, Hungary and Belgium.

Since 2010, when the first version of the operation was launched, around 2,250 domain names have been seized, reducing the number of sites selling counterfeit goods around the world.

Europol’s director, Rob Wainwright, said: “This operation is another good example of how transatlantic law enforcement cooperation works. It sends a signal to criminals that they should not feel safe anywhere.”

He pointed out that since the economic downturn, which continues to impact people all over the world, has led to many consumers looking for cheaper items, often turning to sites that are selling unofficial goods.

The domain names that were seized in the operation are now in the possession of the governments of the nations concerned.

Any visitors to these sites will see a banner detailing the seizure and explaining the crime of willful copyright infringements. A total of $175,000, which is currently held in the accounts of the website owners, is also being targeted for seizure by the US government.

The timing of the seizure of the domains is important as the removal of 700 sites selling counterfeit goods will reduce the likelihood of consumers being duped by unofficial sites in the run up to Christmas.

Consumers have been warned to carry out checks to make sure the site they are purchasing from is legitimate. This includes a green address bar and the padlock symbol. Brands also have a responsibility to update their SSL certificates to ensure customers feel comfortable using their virtual store.

ICE acting director John Sandweg said: “Working with our international partners on operations like this shows the true global impact of IP Crime.

“Counterfeiters take advantage of the holiday spirit of shoppers around the world and sell cheap fakes to unsuspecting consumers everywhere. Consumers need to protect themselves, their families, and their personal financial information from the criminal networks operating these bogus sites.”

Domain names seized for fraudulent activity