US Customs issues holiday warning over companies selling counterfeit items online

ATLANTA — We are just a week away from Christmas and during a pandemic, that means many shoppers are buying online. But Customs and Border Protection officials are warning that criminals overseas are selling counterfeits online that could be dangerous.

“Many, many things can be counterfeited in such as counterfeit electronics, which don’t necessarily meet U.S. safety standards,” explained Laurie Dempsey, U.S. Customs and Border Protection director, IPR Division and E-Commerce.

Dempsey said even more counterfeit goods like electronics, makeup, and even toys are coming into our country from online crooks because of the pandemic. “They’re just not made to the same standard quality standards as legitimate products, and it can be choking hazards. They can contain harmful chemicals. And so definitely a real danger to the kids playing with them,” she said.

It’s not just gifts. Dempsey said items you may be purchasing online to stay safe from COVID might not live up to claims, like masks and testing kits.

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This fall, CBP officers at the port of savannah seized 600 boxes of fake Apple AirPods shipped from China. They have a street value of nearly $150,000.

“CBP is doing what we can in terms of making seizures of counterfeit goods. We seize millions of counterfeits every year,” Dempsey said. “But we always say we can’t seize our way out of the problem, and so we’re doing what we can to create awareness on the on the demand side.”

That means you, the shopper, must be aware of a few things before you buy that great deal online. CBP said some third-party online marketplaces can be a hotbed for counterfeit goods, especially if the price seems like a bargain. Also, Dempsey said you should look out for repetitive reviews or misspellings online, another clue the item could be a fake.

Customs wants you to let them know if you suspect something being sold online is fake by contacting them through the e-Allegations Online Trade Violation Reporting System or calling 1-800-BE-ALERT.

They also have more information to keep consumers aware of online shopping dangers at www.cbp.gov/fakegoodsrealdangers.