Just how can a site afford to sell you quality, brand name merchandise for more half the price of every other competitor? It turns out that very often, they cannot. Counterfeit products have existed for years, peddled by street vendors who try to talk you into an amazing deal. The internet is no stranger to the counterfeit merchandise game. Since it’s inception, con artists have taken their various games onto the web to make an easy buck off the unsuspecting newbie. The end of the year holiday season is one of the best times for counterfeiters to reel in their victims with some amazing deals. But this year, things are a bit different.
The United States government is cracking down on sites that trick their clients with “knockoff”, copyright-infringing merchandise. These companies often try to emulate the look of other official websites of outlets selling clothes and other accessories. Unfortunately, users have very little indication that the brand name products they are buying aren’t really brand name products at all!
The U.S. Department of Justice together with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have seized 150 website domain names that regularly sell counterfeit products such as handbags, sports jerseys, sunglasses and shoes. These internationally-run companies prey on unsuspecting buyers looking for a deal, especially around the time of the holidays.
Since June 2010, over 350 websites have been seized by the government agencies. This timely attack on 150 sites operating outside the U.S. comes just before Cyber Monday, one of the biggest days for e-commerce. According to the director of the agency, these counterfeiters had been selling millions of dollars worth of copyrighted knockoffs through various websites.
Among the domains seized were cheapjerseysite.org, discount-uggboots-sale.com, MLBjerseys.us , Pumaoutlets.net and NFLJerseysupply.org.The two agencies validate the suspected pirating by purchasing goods and then working with the copyright holding companies to determine the validity of the product being sold. The owners of these sites have 60 days to challenge the seizure in the U.S. court system, but the agencies report that “nearly all” of the site owners don’t bother to defend themselves.
A Warning to Others
New legislation aims to put a stop to foreign websites engaging in copyright infringement. The Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy both aim to give agencies the proper tools to target websites engaged in this activity.
The seized websites display a stern warning to would-be shoppers and hosts of other counterfeit merchandise sites. The notice reminded users that, “willful copyright infringement is a federal crime.” Even first time offenders can expect up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and other criminal penalties.
Look for some of these “red flags” to identify sites that peddle counterfeit products. Sites that have deals that seem too good to be true probably are. For example, brand name items that regularly cost $500 are never going to be on sale for $100 when large, well-known sites are only offering smaller discounts. Sites that charge you in foreign currency may also be likely to be pulling an electronic bait and switch. Sticking to well-known, trusted sites can protect you from unwittingly supporting counterfeit goods and make sure you get the quality you expect.
George Stanzan is mainly a writer for the insurance industry discussing such topics as getting well-educated car insurance brokers for your needs. Sometimes, he goes out on a limb and writes about fun and interesting topics like the importance of commercial insurance.