JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Could the items on your loved ones’ holiday wish lists be counterfeit?
Federal officers say it’s more common than you think, and they’ve already seized millions of dollars’ worth of fake clothes, jewelry and electronics this holiday season.
Every day, fake and illegal items are coming in the mail from overseas, many times to be sold again on Facebook, Craigslist and other e-commerce sites. However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are doing their best to catch the counterfeits.
From pricey Chanel and Louis Vuitton purses to sought-after Samsung phones and $1,500 Gucci sweatpants, people are looking to save money on the most desired gifts this holiday season. But Customs officers offer a warning.
“If the price is too good to be true, should probably be concerned that it’s counterfeit,” said Supervisor Officer David Dilland, who is in charge of Jacksonville’s port operations for CBP.
He and his team laid out a table full of suspected counterfeit items, all seized at Jacksonville’s seaport in the last week and a half. If the items were real, the total suggested retail price is calculated at more than $122,000.
“Some are very good, some are not,” Dilland said, showing the varying quality of the fake items.
The haul of knock-offs is just a snippet of shipments Jacksonville officers have seized in the few weeks; it’s an endless supply. Name brands like Nike and Apple appear to be replicated to a tee.
The layout included fake Apple Airpod Pros, Rolex watches, designer accessories and limited-edition tennis shoes.
“On the surface, they look quality, the packaging looks legit,” Dilland told News4Jax. “However, with these specifically, the serial numbers all match and are all the exact same.”
Dilland took News4Jax to a classified warehouse in Jacksonville where shipments are diverted, inspected and potentially seized if found to be in violation of U.S. law.
Officers use K-9s, high-tech scanners and serial numbers to spot illegal items, which come to North Florida by air and by water.
While officers have been busy seizing billions for decades, Dilland said that they’re busier than ever now because of the prevalence of e-commerce and online shopping. He also said the COVID-19 pandemic has increased items shipped.
He noted they still find drugs smuggled into the country, but phony merchandise is more common and harder to prosecute.
Dilland said it comes mostly from China, but packages containing counterfeit items come from all over the world. And it’s not a victimless crime.
“The money going to the counterfeiters is typically for criminal enterprise,” he said.
Officers remind buyers cutting corners comes with a cost. Besides violating copyrights and lacking quality, there are dangers. Electronics specifically are a fire hazard because the counterfeiters cut corners with wires and safety measures. Many products have been known to use toxic chemicals and ingredients like lead.
Customs officers remind consumers to “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 you have questions about the legitimacy of a product.”
VIEW: 2019 seizures by CBP
Nationwide in fiscal year 2020, CBP seized 26,503 shipments containing goods that violated intellectual property rights, or IPR. Had they been genuine, their value was estimated at nearly $1.3 billion.