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Police crackdown on suspected counterfeit sellers

Police seize items in days of action against suspected counterfeit goods sellers in Manchester
PIPCU is targeting people suspected of selling counterfeit goods on Facebook Marketplace
PIPCU is determined to prevent the online buying and selling of counterfeit goods which can be potentially dangerous

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), run by the City of London Police, has seized goods in Manchester as part of its crackdown on counterfeit goods sellers on Facebook.

PIPCU has visited addresses in the Manchester area today (22 May 2018) and will continue to do so over the next two days.  Officers will be targeting people who are believed to have sold counterfeit goods on social media sites. Officers are making sellers aware of the risks that these products pose to the people who buy them and highlighting the fact that this is a criminal offence.

PIPCU has suspended over 40,000 counterfeit websites, since its launch in September 2013, but as social media capabilities develop, fraudsters have turned to Facebook Marketplace in the hope that they can evade police.

Among the most commonly counterfeited items are clothing, shoes and handbags, leaving victims out of pocket and with sub-standard, often harmful products. Fake make up and perfumes can contain chemicals that cause swelling, rashes and burns.

The consequences of purchasing online don’t stop at receiving poor quality, or dangerous fakes. PIPCU is also warning the public about the consequences of providing personal details to online criminals who then use them to commit fraud such as registering counterfeit websites.  The result being online shoppers unwittingly become victims of identity theft. Officers are seeking to warn these people by offering advice and support about the signs to look out for before purchasing online.

Detective Chief Inspector Teresa Russell, Head of the City of London Police's Intellectual Property Crime Unit, said:

“This action should act as a warning to those who may also be using Facebook Marketplace or the internet to sell counterfeit products.

“The risks of counterfeit goods are significant with impacts on both the health, safety and wellbeing of the public.

“Our work in the Manchester area is part of our wider aim to crackdown on counterfeit sellers who operate across social media.

“The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is determined to work with social media sites to prevent the buying and selling of what can be dangerous products. Unlike legitimate products, counterfeit goods are not subject to the rigorous safety and compliance tests which puts the consumer at risk. Reports of people receiving electrical shocks, to items catching fire are not uncommon.” 

Dr Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright and Enforcement, Intellectual Property Office, said:

"This is excellent work by PIPCU. It’s great to hear that counterfeit goods have been seized. I hope this is a warning to anyone selling counterfeit goods on social media sites that action can and will be taken.

"Protecting consumers against the dangers involved in counterfeit goods is essential. We echo the advice given by PIPCU on how to stay safe when shopping online and urge consumers who have been misled into buying counterfeit goods to report it to Action Fraud."

A Facebook spokesperson, said:

“Facebook takes intellectual property rights seriously, and the safety of people on Facebook is our number one priority. For this reason, we have strict Commerce Policies in place that sales on Marketplace must comply with. We do not permit deceptive, false or misleading products on Marketplace, including counterfeit goods.

"We use a mix of technology and human review to enforce our Commerce Policies and we have built extensive systems across Facebook for people to report items or buyers and sellers who aren't acting in good faith. When an item is reported, Facebook will swiftly review and remove anything that violates our polices.” 

What to do if you are a victim of counterfeit fraud

If you purchased an item you believed to be genuine but now believe it may be counterfeit you can report it to Action Fraud or call 0300 123 2040.

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