Operation Stolen Promise was launched in April by Homeland Security working with other law enforcement and the private sector, notably 3M, to investigate Covid-19 related fraud and this resulted in a press conference announcement on February 17th by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that more than 11 million counterfeit N95 respirator masks had been seized, including hundreds of thousands of masks discovered in an east coast warehouse during a raid.
Mayorkas said Homeland Security agents had been investigating cases in five states across the U.S. over the past two weeks. More raids, he said, are expected over the next few weeks.
“We are at a vulnerable time, of course, with the pandemic costing so many lives and causing so much harm,” Mayorkas said at the press conference. “And that individuals, criminals exploit our vulnerabilities for a quick buck is something that we will continue to aggressively pursue.”
Mayorkas noted that the initial leads on the investigation came from 3M, which reported that suspected counterfeit masks were being purchased for health-care workers and first responders.
DHS officials declined to identify where the raids occurred, saying that they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. Criminal charges are forthcoming, they said. DHS said they have notified about 6,000 suspected victims of the fraud in at least 12 states, including hospitals, medical facilities and others who may have purchased medical masks from what Mayorkas described as a “criminal enterprise.”
A key provision of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the takedown provision that allows copyright holders to file a request to have infringing material removed from the Internet, called a DMCA takedown.
During the first week in February, Google processed its five billionth removal request. Google has been tracking DMCA takedown requests via its Transparency Report since 2012 and receives hundreds of thousands of DMCA takedown requests a day.
Amazon launched a new anti-counterfeiting program to help brands from scammers and counterfeiters by letting them designate listings for removal. Part of the problem is that Amazon has made the process for listing products simple. Sellers can register with only a business name, e-mail, address, phone number, credit card, ID and bank account—but that has also allowed imposters to easily peddle versions of hot-selling items. For example, a seller could list a “used” version of a product that might be a fake. More than half of the sales on Amazon come from third-party merchants.
Amazon has enlisted the brands to help fight the fakes as part of Project Zero by including a tool that generates a unique code that the brand can print onto existing packaging or attach onto items using a sticker. The codes can be scanned to ensure a product’s authenticity when it enters an Amazon warehouse. This product serialization allows the brand owner to have automated protection and self-service counterfeit removal.
Project Zero was launched in March, 2019.
The FDA issued an alert after CorgioMed LLC voluntarily recalled all lots of Leafree Instant Hand Sanitizer Aloe Vera within expiry to the consumer level because the product is mis-labeled as “Edible Alcohol.” The hand sanitizer is an alcohol-based hand rub to applied externally to reduce bacteria on the skin when soap and water are not available.
As part of the product’s Risk Statement: “Ingesting hand sanitizer, which is intended for topical use, may result in alcohol toxicity. Symptoms of alcohol toxicity may range from lack of coordination, slowed or slurred speech, drowsiness to coma, which can be fatal. The warning also extends to pregnant mothers.
4e Brands North America recalled hand sanitizers that may contain wood alcohol. The products were manufactured in Mexico and sold under the brand names: Assured, Blumen and Modesa. The affected Hand Sanitizers are packaged in clear plastic bottles with variation of tops, including blue, white, or clear pumps or caps.
These two companies are part of a growing list of companies that have recalled their hand sanitizers because of risks to the public. The FDA has posted a list of the hand sanitizers that the public should avoid: