MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Americans will be opening their wallets wide Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials are urging Americans to watch out for counterfeit items.
Knockoffs, from electronics to designer handbags to shoes, are flooding into the country and onto the internet this time of year.
“When you look at a Buffalo Bills jersey and you see the fabric bleeding so the lines cut across, that’s pretty obvious to our officers,” an agent demonstrated to CBS News correspondent Kenneth Craig.
Nationally, the number of seizures has risen every year since 2007, jumping to 25 percent in 2015.
In 2016, officers seized $1.38 billion in counterfeit goods and made 451 arrests.
Federal investigators say most of the knock offs have been coming from China and Hong Kong, but recently distributors have been changing the countries they’re shipping from to try to fool inspectors at ports.
Homeland Security Investigations agents say it’s not a victimless crime – sales of counterfeit goods often benefit terrorist groups
“You have organizations such as Hezbollah that are using counterfeit to source their efforts abroad,” said Angel M. Melendez with ICE Homeland Security.
Here in the United States, victims include companies and their employees that sell the real products as well as the consumers who might buy something they think is safe, such as electronics, prescription drugs and cosmetics.
Customs officials say avoid buying from non-reputable retailers, and always notice the price. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Federal officials also believe the entities that try to bring in counterfeit goods are also bringing in opioids, contributing to the nation’s drug epidemic. The officials said the confiscated goods are destroyed.