Feds warn about surge in counterfeit goods this holiday season

Courtesy of CBS Newspath

NEW YORK — From electronics to designer handbags and shoes, they may look like some of the hottest items this holiday season, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection says they’re all fake.

“When you look at a Buffalo Bills jersey and you see the fabric bleeding so the lines cut across, that’s pretty obvious to our officers.”

Nationally, the number of seizures has risen every year since 2007 and jumped 25 percent in 2015. Last year, officers seized $1.38 billion in counterfeit goods and made 451 arrests.

Federal investigators said most of the knock offs have been coming from China and Hong Kong, but recently distributors have been changing the countries they’re shipping from to try to fool inspectors.

Homeland Security Investigations agents said it’s not a victimless crime. Sales of counterfeit goods often benefit terrorist groups.

“You have organizations such as Hezbolah that are using counterfeit to source their efforts abroad,” said ICE Homeland Security agent Angel M. Melendez.

Here in the U.S., victims include companies and their employees that sell the real products and those consumers who might buy something they think is safe, like electronics, prescription drugs and cosmetics.

Federal officials also believe the entities that try to bring in counterfeit goods are also bringing in opioids and contributing to the nation’s drug epidemic.

Customs officials said the best thing you can do is avoid buying from non-reputable retailers.

And always keep an eye on the price. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.