Is It a Fake or the Real Deal?

Buying counterfeit consumer goods puts your family’s health and safety at risk

NBC Universal, Inc.

While shopping online, be on the lookout for counterfeit goods.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seizes millions of fake items each year. In September, nearly $3 million in counterfeit goods were seized by agents at Dulles International Airport. The shipment consisted of 74 boxes coming from China and included thousands of belts, handbags and shirts with designer brand names. All of the fakes are eventually destroyed by the CBP.

Criminals are capitalizing on the huge increase in online shopping and taking advantage of consumers looking for deals. But buying counterfeit goods can actually be really dangerous.

“We seize counterfeit pharmaceuticals which can pose grave health issues, fake auto parts that can pose injury or death,” said John Leonard, executive director of Trade Policy and Programs at CBP. “We seize counterfeit electronic goods that can pose health threats with batteries melting down.”

Here are 4 steps consumers can take to protect themselves when shopping online. 

  • At checkout, look for missing sales tax charges. This could be a sign that the seller isn’t reporting their sales to financial authorities.
  • Only use websites beginning with HTTPS:// — the “S” means secure. And look for the lock symbol, too. Counterfeiters aren’t usually concerned with keeping data secure. 
  • Look for missing or expired “use by” dates and broken or missing safety seals.
  • Trust your gut. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.

Do your research before clicking and check the seller’s reviews. Make sure they have a U.S. presence so you can contact them for more information.

In addition to consumer goods, CBP continues to seize counterfeit and unapproved medical supplies. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CBP has seized more than 13.5 million counterfeit face masks and more than 177,000 unapproved COVID-19 test kits.

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