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CBP reminds consumers to ‘beware’ of counterfeit goods when shopping

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday already here, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is reminding consumers to be on the lookout for counterfeit and pirated goods, particularly when shopping online.

Every year, CBP seizes millions of counterfeit goods from countries around the world as part of its mission to protect U.S. businesses and consumers. These goods include fake versions of popular products, such as smartphones and related accessories, electronics, apparel, shoes, cosmetics, and high-end luxury goods.

“Sold online and in stores, counterfeit goods hurt the U.S. economy, cost Americans their jobs, threaten consumer health and safety, and fund criminal activity,” said Leida Colon, assistant director of field operations in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

“Counterfeiters are focused on making a profit; they’re not focused on consumer safety. Buying counterfeit goods can expose you and your family to health and safety risks while the proceeds support criminal enterprises,” she said.

There are several steps that consumers can take to protect themselves when shopping online, the agency said. Purchase goods only from reputable retailers and be wary of third party vendors. Check seller reviews and verify there is a working phone number and address for the seller, in case there are questions about the legitimacy of a product.

“Bad actors continue to exploit the dramatic growth of e-commerce to sell counterfeit goods and other illicit products through online platforms, particularly during the holiday season when shoppers are looking for deals,” said Mayra Claudio, assistant port director for the San Juan area port.

“If the price of the product seems too good to be true, it probably is — and that can cause real problems for you, your family, and legitimate businesses,” said Claudio.

Nationwide in Fiscal Year 2020, the CBP seized 26,503 shipments containing goods that violated intellectual property rights. The total estimated value of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was nearly $1.3 billion. 

The CBP San Juan Field Office in Fiscal 2020 seized 2,443 shipments containing goods that violate intellectual property rights with a value of $46 million.

Some of the most notable seizures are:

  • On May 27, CBP Officers seized a shipment consisting of 844 counterfeit alloy car wheels imported into the island, worth $238,000, had the goods been genuine. 
  • On July 21, CBP Officers and Import Specialists seized one thousand counterfeit designer and luxury watches in a commercial shipment coming from the Dominican Republic. The estimated manufacturer suggested retail price of the seized products is about $420,583, had the goods been genuine.
  • On Feb. 7, CBP officers and import specialists seized 138 shipments of counterfeit products including stacks of fake $100 bills
  • On June 11, CBP Officers and Import Specialists seized of 560 sets of fake Apple AirPods imported into Puerto Rico from Hong Kong via air courier. The street value of the seized goods would have been about $111,440.  

To address such violations the San Juan Trade Enforcement Team was created in October 2016. Since its inception, the group has seized a total of 1,064,098 items totaling an estimated value of $163.4 million.  

The list of the most popular items U.S. Customs and Border Protection confiscated in Fiscal 2020 include (in order): Purses/wallets; jewelry; footwear; electronics; alcoholic beverages; watches; clothing; other counterfeit goods; cigarettes; and prescription drugs.

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

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