Customs officers in Louisville in the US state of Kentucky seized 164 shipments of fake items worth more than $95 million in the three-month period leading up to the Black Friday weekend, according to US Customs and Border Protection.
That figure represented a 75% year-on-year increase from the same period in 2018.
In total, the goods seized, which induced fake designer bags, jewellery, shoes and sunglasses, would have been worth in excess of $95.5 million had the products been authentic, which worked out to some $582,000 per each individual shipment.
Over the course of the three months, frontline customs officers in the city worked in cooperation with CBP’s Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising Centres for Excellence and Expertise, where the agency’s intellectual property rights analysts verified the authenticity or lack thereof of confiscated items through trademark holders.
In a statement, Thomas Mahn, Louisville Port Director, said: “Driven by the rise in ecommerce, the market for counterfeit goods in the United States has shifted in recent years from one in which consumers often knowingly purchased counterfeits to one in which counterfeiters try to deceive consumers into buying goods they believe are authentic.
“Often times the counterfeits are priced competitively just below a genuine product to avoid scrutiny by the consumer.
“The consumers are unaware that they’re buying a dangerous product as the Counterfeit is just that good.”
The US Department of Homeland Security yesterday warned consumers to be on the lookout for counterfeit items and online scams as the Black Friday sales weekend got underway.
Taking to Twitter, the agency said: “Don’t get fleeced by fakes on #BlackFriday! Some shopping tips from HSI: 1. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is 2. Beware of websites that have unusual addresses or lack contact info 3. Another red flag – websites that offer models/designs not offered elsewhere.”
On Monday, CBP announced that customs agents in Louisville had seized six shipments containing more than 2,900 fake driver’s licences and in excess of 3,120 blank card stocks from which to make bogus driver’s licences.
One of the shipments is said to have been on its way to a convicted paedophile living in New York who is thought to have been using fake IDs to entice minors to engage in sexual activity.
All the seized items were produced in China and were on their way to recipients in the New York area.
Scammers preparing to fleece bargain hunters over Black Friday weekend, experts warn
Fraud experts and internet security firms have warned that scammers and cyber criminals are gearing up for a busy Black Friday weekend.
As US consumers settle down to their Thanksgiving celebrations, and shoppers in other countries look forward to the post-holiday sales bonanza, fraudsters are preparing to catch out bargain hunters as they seek to secure themselves cut-price deals.
On Tuesday, US online security company ZeroFOX revealed that it had identified 61,305 potential scams across 26 brands that had been set up ahead of the weekend sales event.
The firm noted most of these targeted customers of bricks-and-mortar retail stores, with a smaller number going after electronics brands and online marketplaces.
ZeroFOX said fraudsters are likely targeting physical retailers as these types of scams will be attractive to a larger pool of consumers and thereby potential victims.
Separately, James Chappell, co-founder of online security firm Digital Shadows, has told the UK’s Press Association that criminals operating on dark web marketplaces are set to offer special Black Friday deals on a range of illicit products, including drugs, stolen personal identity information, and fake ID documents.
“People who buy products and services from criminals are also consumers in their own right, they’re familiar with concepts such as Black Friday,” Chappell said.
“We’ve seen the same strategies that online retailers and physical retailers use, being used in these criminal markets.
“We see them used either to provide discounts, ‘stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap’ type strategies, and we’ve seen the same with discount codes, introductions, building up excitement before the event, adverts that entice and enthuse.”
Elsewhere, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned shoppers that Black Friday will likely bring about a surge in cyber scammers using the names of major brands to con consumers.
The commission said that shoes, smartphones and tickets to major events are just some of the products that scammers most commonly use to fleece unsuspecting shoppers of their money.
It urged consumers to do their research before making a purchase.
Speaking with CNBC Africa, Maeson Maherry, Chief Solutions Director at identity management company LAWtrust, said most cyber crime takes place in South Africa on Black Friday.
“Black Friday has a psychological effect,” Maherry said.
“We’ve been conditioned to think that there are going to be some deals that are too good to be true on Black Friday, and that’s the psychology.
“When people are under pressure like that, they want that deal and tend not to think things through.”
Indian government policies have turned country into major gold smuggling hub, NGO warns
India has become one of the world’s major hubs for gold smuggling, according to a new report from Canadian natural resources NGO Impact.
Noting that nearly one third of all the world’s gold passes through India’s borders, the study’s authors reveal that gold linked to human rights abuses and corruption in countries across Africa and South America is entering legal international markets via India.
According to the report, goldsmiths across the country who turn the metal into bullion or jewellery ask very few questions when buying gold from traders, often turning a blind eye to illegal trafficking.
Even when gold arrives with paperwork that contains worrying information about the location and manner in which it was mined, goldsmiths in India often fail to take action.
The study, titled A Golden Web: How India Became One of the World’s Largest Gold Smuggling Hubs, outlines how India imports approximately 1,000 tons of gold every year, which is 25% more than official figures show.
Observing that various policies and tax changes introduced by the Indian government have over time incentivised smuggling and the illicit trade of gold, the NGO said traders falsify documentation to import gold from producing countries or smuggle it in from other trading centres.
The report identifies three primary factors driving the illicit trade in gold across India.
Tax breaks introduced in 2013 for unrefined gold intended to boost India’s refinery sector have led to traders covering up questionable provenance claims by falsifying documentation to take advantage of lower taxes, it said.
This has resulted in a spike in unrefined gold imports into India, with “the majority coming from producing countries that lack strong internal controls or are linked to supply chains with weak evidence of due diligence”.
Impact also said refined gold is being smuggled into India primarily from the United Arab Emirates, while key traders and refiners in Africa’s Great Lakes region with links to India have been identified as being part of the illicit gold trade.
In a statement announcing the release of the study, Executive Director of Impact Joanne Lebert commented: “Actors across India’s gold industry are failing to do proper checks on where gold comes from to ensure it’s not financing conflict and human rights violations.
“With its role as a leading global gold manufacturing centre, India must take action to address the weaknesses in its gold supply chain.”
EU authorities join forces with big tech to remove Daesh propaganda from internet
European law enforcement and judicial authorities last week joined forces with several big technology firms to remove online propaganda relating to Islamist extremist organisation Daesh.
During the 16th Referral Action Day, which was coordinated by the European Union Internet Referral Unit and supported by Europol and Eurojust, law enforcement agencies from 12 EU member states linked up with nine major technology companies to target supporters of the jihadi group in cyber space.
Telegram, Google, Twitter, Instagram and Dropbox contributed to the initiative, which resulted in the referral of more than 26,000 items of online content that appeared to support the Islamist network.
Europol said the operation had resulted in the shutdown of accounts linked with Daesh’s Amaq propaganda agency, which would regularly carry news of the group’s attacks.
Instances of branded terrorist content were flagged by Europol to the relevant internet service providers, who are responsible for assessing such items and evaluating whether they breach their terms of service, and to ensure that the rule of law is upheld, and freedom of speech is safeguarded.
As part of the operation, police in Spain arrested an individual on suspicion of being a major distributor of Daesh propaganda online.
Europol used the day of action to reveal that its agents have been working with encrypted messaging app with Telegram to tackle online terrorist propaganda.
In a statement, Europol said: “Telegram is no place for violence, criminal activity and abusers. The company has put forth considerable effort to root out the abusers of the platform by both bolstering its technical capacity in countering malicious content and establishing close partnerships with international organisations such as Europol.
“Thanks to this collaboration, the already-existing content referral tools available to Telegram’s users have been strengthened and expanded.
“Now, any user is able to refer and classify the content they find inappropriate and violent via the referral feature in public groups and channels.
“In addition, new technical developments, such as the advanced automated content detection system, continue to strengthen Telegram’s effort in obliterating extremism on the platform even further.”
While most major social media networks focussed on removing terror-related propaganda from their platforms several years ago, Telegram has been accused of being slower to act, and is now said to harbour far-right extremists who support Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik and alleged Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant.
Speaking with the Jakarta Post earlier this month, Telegram representative Remi Vaughn said: “While Telegram is a platform for free speech, we do not welcome calls for violence.”
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9 February 2018
9 February 2018
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