Looking for a great deal on hot, name brand items this holiday season may be slightly safer after the federal government seized 150 internet domain names during a targeted crackdown on counterfeit goods, but letting your guard down would be a real mistake.
Cheap fakes are usually easy to spot and hard for crooks to get a lot of cash for, but sophisticated counterfeit high end goods can often pass as legitimate, allowing scammers to command the same prices as the real items and making it a lucrative business for criminals.
Counterfeit goods may be dangerous to your health; whether the knockoffs are shoes or electronics, how those materials were handled, what they were treated with, and whether they were tested may pose serious risks to your health – or the health of your gift recipient.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, “Not only is this is a direct threat to American innovation … but it’s also a public safety issue.”
Not only is your health at risk, and the financial health of the legitimate companies whose products are being counterfeited, it’s important to understand that criminals reinvest their profits to bankroll more crime. Your purchase may be funding your upcoming identity theft.
The government said it is unclear how much money criminals have made from counterfeiting, but since the crackdown on counterfeit sellers started last year, internet users have gone to the seized domains more than 77 million times.
Asked about the commercial value, Morton said, “Typically we don’t track the volumes of sales of these particular sites, [but] it is very large figures. Well, well above millions.”
Top 10 Counterfeit Products
Take particular care when shopping for any of the top 10 counterfeit items, which according to The National White Collar Crime Center are:
- Footwear – 2010 Domestic Seizure Value: $45.75 million
- Consumer Electronics – 2010 Domestic Seizure Value: $33.59 million
- Clothing – 2010 Domestic Seizure Value: $18.68 million
- Handbags/ Wallets/ Backpacks – 2010 Domestic Seizure Value: $15.42 million
- Music/ Movies/ Software – 2010 Domestic Seizure Value: $12.68 million
- Computers & Hardware – 2010 Domestic Seizure Value: $9.5 million
- Cigarettes – 2010 Domestic Seizure Value: $8.85 million
- Watches & Parts – 2010 Domestic Seizure Value: $7.85 million
- Jewelry – 2010 Domestic Seizure Value: $6.76 million
- Prescription Drugs – 2010 Domestic Seizure Value: $5.66 million
To better protect yourself, from fakes, scams, and thieves, see my blogs 6 Steps to Avoiding Black Friday Scams, Cyber Monday Sales Skyrocket – Now Watch Those Credit Card Statements.