BALTIMORE — U.S. Customs and Border Protection is warning consumers about the dangers of purchasing counterfeit products this holiday season.
In Fiscal Year 2020, the agency estimates that it seized nearly $1.3 billion in counterfeit goods. And in just the last two months, CBP has stopped shipments of counterfeit shoes, makeup, perfume, pharmaceuticals, sports jerseys, watches, bluetooth speakers, even chainsaws.
“Frequently we’ll see large shipments come in where the top layer is legitimate, but underneath that will be a whole host of counterfeit masks and things,” said Supervisory Special Agent Keith Custer with the FBI Baltimore field office.
Special Agent Custer added that counterfeit masks have been especially troublesome.
Since the start of the pandemic, CBP has seized more than 13.5 million counterfeit face masks and more than 177,000 unapproved COVID-19 test kits.
"We do see a number of unscrupulous suppliers trying to offer counterfeit N95 masks as the real thing,” Custer said.
CBP’s best advice is "if it seems like a steal, it is."
"If every other retailer is selling a product for $79.95 and you found somebody selling it for $49.95 and it’s only one of them, take a good hard look at the website,” said Custer.
Even if you’re willing to take a chance, consider the potential harm to your health.
“They are frequently products that are made without any standards that the U.S. applies to the production of goods in terms of chemicals, dyes, the composition of how it’s made, and so there’s no guarantee that if it’s a high end perfume, it might not cause harm to your skin,” said Angie Barnett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving greater Maryland.
And most of these items are made overseas, so if you try to return it, you’ll likely have to pay for shipping to that country, or if your order is delayed, it may arrive outside of your credit card dispute window leaving you with little recourse.
If you have any information regarding suspected fraud or illegal trade activity, contact CBP through the e-Allegations Online Trade Violation Reporting System or by calling 1-800-BE-ALERT. Intellectual property rights violations can also be reported to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center or by telephone at 1-866-IPR-2060.