Below is an article about counterfeit goods that really struck a chord. There are so many products being counterfeited and so many ways that counterfeit goods are harmful. It is truly an epidemic. $1.77 Trillion is the 2015 Projected Value of Global Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods.
As you're doing your holiday shopping, especially if you're doing it online, perhaps take some time to do the checking that Mr. Arnold of Homeland Security recommends.
ICE warns of holiday scams, counterfeit goods
Customs officials spread a collection of fake bags, purses, Lamisil, Viagra, coupons, UGG boots, clothing, electronics and a $15,000 Hermès bag across a large table at ICE’s Long Beach office Friday morning. Another table contained counterfeit goods alongside their legitimate counterparts.
Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said almost any product out there has been counterfeited and that counterfeit manufacturing operations have become more sophisticated in recent years.
“This was linked to a case where the distributor bought a bunch for $10,000 each and sold them for $15,000 a piece,” he said of the fake Hermès bag. “(Legitimate bags) retail for $15,000. Some counterfeiters will sell for very close to the (retail value) to make them look legitimate.”
Arnold then pointed to a sample of counterfeit makeup nearby. “You don’t know what’s in it,” he said. “We’ve found carcinogens, animal urine.”
Cracking down on sale of fake goods is becoming more difficult since the emergence of so-called “copycat websites” that mimic those of established brands, according to information provided by ICE.
“In person, it’s easy to tell (what’s fake and what isn’t),” said Graham Thatcher, a brand protection associate for Deckers Outdoor Corp., who was at Friday morning’s presentation. Deckers owns a variety of apparel companies including UGG Australia. “You try the fit, feel (and) insulation,” Thatcher said. “Counterfeits are made with synthetics so they don’t breathe. They’re made with a harder foam so they’re not comfortable to stand on.” But online customers do not have a chance to touch or try on their products before purchasing, he said. In addition, customers using a search engine to shop for deals may be directed to illegitimate shopping websites selling counterfeit goods, Thatcher said.
U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than 24,000 counterfeit items nationwide in 2013, a 7 percent increase compared with the year before. Those goods amount to about $1.7 billion in potential revenue. It is estimated that counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses $200 billion to $250 billion per year in lost revenue, according to ICE.
Counterfeit items do not only consist of goods. Arnold picked up an imitation of a Nintendo Wii game console and pointed to a small logo with a “UL” enclosed in a circle on the bottom of the box. The logo is for an Underwriters Laboratories listing, which certifies safety standards on electronic products. “This is a knockoff, so (its manufacture) isn’t illegal,” he said. “The fake UL listing is.” Without legitimate UL certification, a product is not safety-tested by the not-for-profit group and could overheat, explode and possibly cause a fire.
For those who choose to shop mostly online, Arnold recommends checking the product line. Counterfeiters will often sell products that do not exist in the real product line. Another good practice is to call a contact number listed on the website or click on a “contact us” box. “A real company will (respond immediately),” Arnold said. “A counterfeiter doesn’t want to hear from you again after they get your money.”