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Amazon’s new crime unit targets fraudsters selling fake goods

Amazon has set up a new Counterfeit Crimes Unit to track down and prosecute fraudsters selling fake goods on its shopping site.

The problem of counterfeiters has troubled Amazon for years, with the e-commerce giant investing more than $500 million to fight fraud and abuses in 2019 alone.

The newly formed Counterfeit Crimes Unit aims to make it easier for Amazon to “pursue civil litigation against suspected criminals, work with brands in joint or independent investigations, and aid law enforcement officials worldwide in criminal actions against counterfeiters,” the company said in a blog post announcing its latest crack at tackling dodgy sellers.

The global team will include former federal prosecutors, experienced investigators, and data analysts. Part of its role will also be to support Amazon’s current efforts to shield its shopping site from knockoffs.

These include occasional lawsuits, as well as a brand registry, created in 2017, aimed at speeding up the removal of such listings. The company also deploys algorithms designed to automatically detect knockoffs that show up on its site, with a large team of human operators also tasked with tackling the problem.

Amazon’s sprawling shopping site contains millions of third-party sellers, a number of whom use the platform to sell cheap copies of branded products. The only winner here is of course the fraudster, as customers tempted by what seems like a bargain can be left disappointed when they realize they’ve bought a low-quality knockoff. Such knockoffs can also pose a safety risk, as Apple has pointed out in the past. Meanwhile, the makers of the genuine article have little choice but to suck it up as the fraudster continues to produce cheap copies of products they’ve invested heavily in to create.

And, of course, such nefarious practices undermine the trust that customers, sellers, and brands place in Amazon’s own platform, causing damage to the reputation of the Seattle-based company.

While its current measures play an important role in tackling the issue, fake goods are still a major headache for Amazon. Whether its Counterfeit Crimes Unit manages to take its fight to a new level remains to be seen.

“Every counterfeiter is on notice that they will be held accountable to the maximum extent possible under the law, regardless of where they attempt to sell their counterfeits or where they’re located,” said Amazon executive Dharmesh Mehta. “We are working hard to disrupt and dismantle these criminal networks, and we applaud the law enforcement authorities who are already part of this fight.”

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Trevor Mogg
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