Nearly 22,000 websites set up by fraudsters to sell counterfeit goods, such as cosmetic products, clothes, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and pirated films, have been taken down in a joint EU-wide operation facilitated by Interpol and Eurojust.

In a press release published today, Europol said that law enforcement authorities from 26 EU Member States, along with Europol and the US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Centre, seized 21,910 fraudulent websites that were set up by fraudsters to make large profits by selling counterfeit goods. The fraudsters also used to delete their internet tracks in a very short period of time to avoid detection.

The law enforcement authorities together seized more than €2.5 million worth of counterfeit products that included counterfeit pharmaceuticals and pirated films, illegal television streaming, music, software, and other bogus products.

They also seized 22,614 fake cosmetic products, 22,042 accessories for mobile phones, 69,657 perfume bottles, 8,929 clothing articles, 7.480 detergent boxes, and 4,800 boxes of fake condoms. The investigation was carried out by enforcement authorities from the US, the UK, Hong Kong- China, Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Peru, South Korea, Moldova, Serbia, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Portugal, and Ukraine.

The mere seizure of counterfeit goods and the takedown of fraudulent domains is never a lasting solution as fraudsters will continue to sell counterfeit goods online as long as they are able to successfully dupe Internet users into visiting their fake websites and place large orders after falling for attractive discount offers.

This is because the seizure of 22,000 domains took place just a couple of years after Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3) seized 33,654 fraudulent domains and arrested twelve suspected cyber criminals for selling counterfeit goods online.

Both seizures were the result of a joint global operation called ‘In Our Sites’ (IOS) that brings together anti-counterfeiting associations, brand owner representatives, and law enforcement authorities from all over the world to prevent the sale of counterfeit goods and make the Internet a safer place.

"The pure eagerness for people to bag the best deals on Black Friday is a huge threat as people may neglect basic security hygiene in a rush to smash through their loved ones' Christmas lists. Keen shoppers need to realise that 'easy' doesn't necessarily equate to 'safe', so having non-essential websites store their passwords or credit card details or using the same password across all online stores is ill-advised," said Todd Peterson, IAM specialist at One Identity.

To improve consumer awareness of fraudulent activies on the Internet, Europol recently launched a campaign named “Don’t F***(ake) Up”. As part of the campaign, the organisation informs citizens of the risks of buying fake products online and provides forthright advice to help identify illicit websites that sell counterfeit goods, as well as other means used by counterfeiters, such as fake social media accounts and fake apps.