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CBP, HSI warn on ‘real dangers’ of counterfeits ahead of holidays

Ahead of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) are cautioning the public about the dangers of purchasing counterfeit, restricted or prohibited goods.

This joint engagement with Puerto Rico-based media is designed to raise public awareness of the dangers of such products and their connection to transnational criminal enterprises.

“The dangers of buying counterfeit products aren’t always obvious. There are economic impacts, legal implications, and health and safety risks that are important for you to know before you buy,” said Efraín Rivas, assistant director of Field Operations for Trade at the San Juan Field Office. “Particularly, when shopping online, beware of counterfeit goods. Fake goods can lead to real dangers.” 

Many consumers are unaware of the risks of purchasing counterfeit items, the agencies said. 

Consumers buying prescription medications from other countries thinking they are discounted may actually be purchasing inferior products with unregulated ingredients, posing serious health risks.

“We encourage consumers to take a stand to let criminals know that they won’t be tricked into making counterfeit purchases. HSI’s IPR [Intellectual Property Crime] Center is committed to investigating and arresting those who prey on innocent consumers and taking action to stop the sale of counterfeit goods on the Internet and in stores,” said HSI San Juan Special Agent in charge, Rebecca González-Ramos. 

“We will continue our enforcement efforts over the holiday season to catch counterfeiters and to protect the health and safety of holiday shoppers,” she added.

The top three categories affecting consumer health and safety are personal care, pharmaceuticals and consumer electronics. The majority of counterfeit items originate from China and Hong Kong.

Nationwide, CBP and HSI seized 20,812 shipments containing goods that violated intellectual property rights in fiscal year 2022, amounting to nearly 25 million counterfeit goods. The total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was more than $2.98 billion. In fiscal 2022, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-HSI arrested 255 individuals, obtained 192 indictments and secured 95 convictions related to intellectual property crimes.

In the 2022 federal fiscal year, the CBP San Juan Field Office made 1,377 seizures with a combined MSRP of more than $36 million, while in fiscal year 2023, the office executed 1,313 seizures with a combined MSRP of nearly $21 million. 

Recently, the Global Trade Investigations (GTI) group seized approximately 479 counterfeit sports uniforms (jerseys and shorts) at a Guaynabo residence being sold as original products. The individual had previous shipments seized by CBP for IPR violations. These uniforms bore famous and protected trademarks. The seizures are part of the San Juan Trade Enforcement Coordination Center (San Juan TECC) investigative efforts.

San Juan TECC comprises specialized HSI and CBP personnel to identify and seize illegal and fraudulent shipped goods destined for U.S. commerce, in addition to disrupting and dismantling criminal organizations that exploit international trade for illegal purposes and unfair trade practices.

CBP established an educational initiative to raise consumer awareness about the consequences and dangers associated with purchasing counterfeit and pirated goods online or in stores.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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