With Black Friday here and Cyber Monday fast approaching, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is reminding consumers that some of the great deals available online may be too good to be true, or rather, too good to be real.
The number of shoppers who use e-commerce has dramatically increased over the past decade, and with it, the number of unscrupulous manufacturers and sellers peddling fraudulent products.
Pushing fake products into the online marketplace is big business. Recently, 4,820 counterfeit iPhone parts were seized at the Port of San Diego. Based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), the total value of the parts would have been $222,113 if the goods had been genuine.
Counterfeit and pirated products threaten our economic security by hurting legitimate businesses who invest significantly in resources to protect their brands. Furthermore, these products often pose serious health and safety hazards to the people who buy and use them.
Counterfeit electronics can overheat due to an improper manufacturing processes. Similarly, other commonly counterfeited products also bring significant risks. For example, fake bicycle helmets can break upon impact, phony cosmetics can lead to skin reactions, and imitation seasonal holiday lights improperly made can result in fires.
There are steps e-commerce shoppers can take to protect themselves not just this holiday season, but all year round, such as exercising caution when buying merchandise through social media platforms and not clicking on suspicious advertisements in their inbox or internet browsers.
Key signs that a website may be peddling counterfeit goods include:
All the products listed are on sale or offered at extremely low prices.
The website does not have proper contact information.
The product is not shipping from within the United States.
The buyer is redirected to an external online payment system during checkout.
Consumers are advised to contact the seller listed on the website for more information.
Stopping the flow of counterfeit products is a priority trade issue for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CBP targets and seizes fake and pirated goods and audit suspect importers. CBP also collaborates with the private sector through programs such as e-Recordation and the Donation Acceptance Program to protect businesses and their branded products.
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. To report a suspicion that a product you purchased may be counterfeit, contact the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at https://www.iprcenter.gov/referral/.