US CBP officials are cautioning consumers about counterfeit products sold by illegitimate sources over the internet and in underground outlets.
On September 15, for the first time in history, the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport seized one billion dollars’ worth of counterfeit products in less than a year. This amount represents the estimated total manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the goods seized, had they been genuine.
The new record marks an increment of 38 percent from the $725,365,590 of counterfeit goods seized in fiscal year 2021. The most pirated items included wearing apparel, accessories, handbags, wallets, footwear, watches, jewelry, and consumer electronics.
“CBP commits substantial resources in intercepting and seizing products that infringe intellectual property rights such as trademarks, copyrights, and patents. These illicit goods often fund criminal activities and organized crime,” said Carlos C. Martel, Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles. “These historic records show that smugglers exploited the increased demand for products via e-commerce and other sources.”
Historically, illegal actors have sold counterfeit products on illegitimate websites and in underground outlets. However, the rise of e-commerce offers a haven for criminals who are now able to hide behind seemingly legitimate listings on well-known websites. The sale of counterfeit commodities multiplies the illegal profits of smugglers and traffickers who reinvest the proceeds from such sales into further criminal enterprises and activities.
“This milestone asserts the exceptional skill, vigilance and keen focus of our trade enforcement teams at our nation’s largest seaport complex,” said Donald R. Kusser, Port Director of the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport. “Every day they protect American consumers from the fraudulent traps unscrupulous smugglers place on unsuspecting buyers.”
Counterfeiting is stealing. It is illegal to purchase counterfeit goods. Bringing them into the United States may result in civil or criminal penalties, and purchasing counterfeit goods often supports criminal activities, such as forced labor or human trafficking.
Counterfeit activities negatively impact American jobs, as counterfeiters don’t pay taxes. This illegal practice also threatens America’s innovation economy by stealing intellectual property from creators and reducing the profits flowing to legitimate businesses that employ the American workforce. In addition, counterfeits are often produced under unsanitary conditions and through exploitative labor practices, which can ultimately pose serious health and safety risks to consumers.
Consumers can take simple steps to protect themselves and their families from counterfeit goods:
- Purchase goods directly from the trademark holder or from authorized retailers.
- When shopping online, read seller reviews and check for a working U.S. phone number and address that can be used to contact the seller.
- Review CBP’s E-Commerce Counterfeit Awareness Guide for Consumers.
- Remember that if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Counterfeit apparel, footwear, and handbags are often of inferior quality and may feature poor or uneven stitching, fragile fabrics, and improperly sized or designed logos. Peeling labels, low-quality ink or printing errors on the packaging are also signs that products may not be legitimate.
To deter the importation of illicit goods and protect U.S. consumers and businesses, CBP has developed a proactive, aggressive, and dynamic enforcement approach to Intellectual Property Right (IPR) enforcement.