The National Trading Standards eCrime Team and National Markets Group have teamed up for Operation Jasper, in the largest enforcement of its kind, identifying criminals who use social media to sell counterfeit goods and commit copyright theft.
Enforcement officers have raided 12 locations with a 22 further investigations ongoing.
Officers have also removed 4,300 Facebook listings, 20 Facebook profiles and issued more than 200 warning and 24 cease and desist letters.
Android TV boxes that allowed illegal streaming of movies and sports channels with unsafe mains chargers have been seized, as have hundreds of counterfeit Cinderella dolls, which contained high levels of toxic phthalates.
Premises in the West Midlands, Worcester and Cheetham Hill in Manchester were raided and found to be selling counterfeit computers, mobile phones and apparel.
National Trading Standards blames the growth of social media for facilitating criminals’ exploitation of platforms.
Its IP Crime Report 2013/14 identified social media as criminals’ “channel-of-choice” for counterfeit and piracy activity.
Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, said: “Criminals who operate on social media have become brazen because they think operating from their living rooms using laptops—without having to be physically present on market stalls—means they are less likely to get caught.”
“I am extremely pleased that this operation has been able to prove that misconception wrong.”
Commenting on Operation Jasper, Haydn Simpson, commercial director of Western Europe at NetNames, said that it is important for intellectual property owners to not just rely on police and platforms to do their enforcing for them.
“It is essential that businesses implement a strategy that protects themselves and their customers from cyber criminals—taking a proactive approach rather than relying on the police and platform policies to seize criminals.”