Amazon, Pfizer, 3M partner with ICE to stop sale of counterfeit coronavirus gear

Amazon, Pfizer, 3M partner with ICE to stop sale of counterfeit coronavirus gear
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Amazon, Pfizer and 3M are among the companies partnering with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify and stop the sale of counterfeit coronavirus-related products.

ICE also recruited Citi, Alibaba and Merck to assist its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) branch in preventing fraud associated with the pandemic, officials said in a statement

HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa Erichs said that a "top priority" of the unit is to ensure that people's fears during the pandemic are not exploited. 

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“A robust partnership with the private sector is an absolute requirement to effectively disrupt and dismantle COVID-19 criminal networks and strengthen global supply-chain security,” Erichs said. 

Operation Stolen Promise, which was launched to eliminate illegal activity related to the pandemic, will focus on banned pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, websites defrauding consumers, and other criminal activities involving trade or financial systems, according to the statement. 

As of Monday, $3.2 million in illicit proceeds have been seized as part of 315 investigations across the country. Eleven people have been arrested, and 21 search warrants have been issued. More than 19,000 COVID-19 domain names have also been analyzed.

The unit has also assisted U.S. Customs and Border Protection in seizing 494 shipments of “mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorized or prohibited” coronavirus test kits, treatment kits, homeopathic remedies, antiviral products and personal protective equipment. 

Mike Roman, chairman and CEO of 3M, said the company is committed to responding to the pandemic “from all angles,” including fighting against fraud. 

“We are partnering with national and international law enforcement, tech companies and online retailers to prevent fraud before it starts and stop it where it is happening,” he said in a statement.

Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president of customer trust and partner support, said Amazon has blocked more than 6.5 million products with “inaccurate claims,” removed 1 million offers thought to involve price gouging and suspended 10,000 selling accounts for suspected price gouging.

“Amazon welcomes HSI’s partnership in holding counterfeiters and bad actors accountable, and we look forward to building on our long-standing relationship to protect customers and ensure a trusted shopping experience,” Mehta said in the statement.