On 9 February 2011, the Queensland Police raided the home of Mr. Howard Tsang, 27, after investigating his sale of counterfeit Microsoft software.
The investigation was triggered by complaints to the Queensland Police Fraud Squad by Mr. Tsang’s customers that they had purchased counterfeit Microsoft software from him on eBay.
The investigation revealed that Mr. Tsang had operated at least 38 different eBay aliases in order to try to evade detection. He used those aliases to sell over 100 copies of counterfeit Microsoft software, including Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Office 2010.
Based on the evidence obtained during the police raid, Mr Tsang was charged with 35 counts of fraud. Mr. Tsang pleaded guilty to all counts of fraud and was placed on probation for a period of one year. The court also required Mr Tsang to repay money he had dishonestly obtained by selling the counterfeit software.
The Queensland Police Service also assisted Microsoft in its separate Federal Magistrates Court of Australia civil action against Mr. Tsang for his importation and sale counterfeit Microsoft software. Microsoft today settled those civil proceedings, with the court ordering Mr. Tsang to pay $90,000 in damages. Microsoft also obtained injunctions that restrain Mr. Tsang from importing or selling counterfeit Microsoft software.
The Tsang case demonstrates the coordinated work effort between Microsoft and Australian law enforcement authorities to stop fraudulent identities being created on online trading sites and used to facilitate the sale of counterfeit software and other counterfeit goods.
Mr Tsang’s customers might think they bought genuine Microsoft software, but they’ve been sold fakes. Those counterfeit software copies may contain dangerous viruses, spyware and other malware. Microsoft’s tests of software available on online pirate software sites found that 35% of the counterfeit software offered contained malware. This harmful code can lead to identity theft, increased system instability and data loss.
People that knowingly sell counterfeit Microsoft software are not only exposing themselves to civil liability, but also to criminal charges. At the same time, online consumers should find some comfort in the knowledge that the Police, online trading sites such as eBay and Microsoft are coordinating their efforts to address online fraud and the sale of counterfeit software.
To help avoid purchasing counterfeit software, consumers should purchase their software from a reputable retailer to ensure that they are buying through authorised channels and have access to after-sales service if any problem arises.
Further information about how to determine whether software is genuine can be found at www.microsoft.com/howtotell.
Clayton Noble, Attorney, Microsoft Australia