With the onslaught of the holiday shopping season, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) remind shoppers how consumers can protect themselves from buying counterfeit goods and brand name “knock-offs.”
“CBP’s primary mission is to protect our nation and its citizens. This includes protecting consumers from unsafe goods. We do this by partnering with industry, HSI, other federal agencies, and foreign governments to fight cross-border trade in these harmful and dangerous illicit goods,” Troy Miller, Director of CBP’s New York Field Office, said. “It is important to shop from reputable sources. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
The agency protects businesses and consumers through its Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) enforcement program. The theft of intellectual property and the trade in substandard and often dangerous goods threaten America’s innovation economy and consumer health and safety. It also generates proceeds that fund criminal activities and organized crime. CBP has established the Truth Behind Counterfeits educational campaign to raise consumer awareness about the health and safety, legal, and economic consequences of purchasing counterfeit and pirated goods. The CBP seized over 27,000 shipments of counterfeit goods worth over $1.5 billion in 2019.
“Consumers who purchase ‘knock-off’ or imitation items may be surprised to know the sale of these items actually contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to fuel a black market economy run by criminal networks who are also responsible for the smuggling and distribution of narcotics, and other illicit activity,” HSI New York Special Agent in Charge Peter Fitzhugh said. “We want to also remind the public that COVID-19 vaccines will not be available outside the designated distribution network; however, these criminal organizations will try to sell you otherwise, and also continue to pray on our vulnerability by selling counterfeit COVID-19 test kits and false solutions. Please continue your vigilance, and we will continue our work with our industry partners and CBP to protect and ensure your safety.”
Consumers with information regarding suspected fraud or illegal trade activity can contact the CBP through the e-Allegations Online Trade Violation Reporting System or by calling 1-800-BE-ALERT.