LAREDO, Texas — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officials gathered at Laredo’s World Trade Bridge to advise the public through local media to avoid buying possibly counterfeit goods or those of dubious origin this holiday season because they may pose consumer safety risks or undercut legitimate trademark holders.
“Criminals don’t take the holidays off, so it’s important for consumers to be aware of ways they can protect themselves this busy season,” said HSI San Antonio Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee. “The sale of counterfeit products deliver inferior and often dangerous goods into the economy, rob Americans of good-paying jobs and generate proceeds that are often funneled back into other criminal enterprises. HSI will continue to work with its enforcement partners to combat the distribution of counterfeit products. We want to remind consumers that when out buying items this holiday season, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
“As gift buying starts to ramp up this holiday season, we would like to advise the public to avoid buying counterfeit goods or goods of unknown or dubious origin either online, from brick and mortar stores, flea markets or elsewhere,” said the Laredo Port of Entry’s Port Director Albert Flores. “CBP and HSI are working together as a trade enforcement force multiplier to identify, interdict, investigate and penalize or prosecute companies and individuals that would try to import and sell counterfeit goods, unsafe goods that may cause grave harm not only to the consumer but also to the licensed U.S. trademark holders and U.S. economic security.”
At an inspection dock at World Trade Bridge, CBP officers, import specialists and HSI special agents displayed and gave an overview on goods that had been seized for violating U.S. laws, including those involving product safety and intellectual or property rights. The items ranged from clothing and sneakers to electronics produced without authorization from U.S. trademark holders, as well as those that did not adhere to U.S. consumer safety standards.
CBP data indicates handbags, wallets, apparel, footwear, watches, jewelry and consumer electronics are at a higher risk of being counterfeited than many other products are. Counterfeit versions of popular brands are regularly sold through online marketplaces and flea markets. Not only are counterfeit goods produced in unregulated and potentially exploitative environments in foreign countries, but the profits from their sales may provide funding streams to organized crime.
Nationwide, CBP and HSI seized 20,812 shipments containing goods that violated intellectual property rights in fiscal year 2022, which equates to nearly 25 million counterfeit items. The total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was over $2.98 billion. In fiscal year 2022, HSI arrested 255 people, obtained 192 indictments and obtained 95 convictions related to intellectual property crimes.
CBP protects citizens from unsafe and substandard products by seizing merchandise infringing on trademarks and copyrights recorded with CBP through the e-Recordation program. CBP has established an educational initiative to raise consumer awareness about the consequences and dangers associated with the purchase of counterfeit and pirated goods.
Consumers can also take the following simple steps to protect themselves and their families from counterfeit goods:
- Purchase goods directly from the trademark holder or from authorized retailers.
- When shopping online, read seller reviews and check for a working U.S. phone number and address so you can contact the seller.
- Review CBP’s E-Commerce Counterfeit Awareness Guide for Consumers.
- Remember that if a product’s price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. It violates trademark holder rights, loses revenue for small businesses that purchase vendor licenses to sell official merchandise, costs consumers their hard-earned money on substandard products and exposes people to financial schemes.
You may report intellectual property rights violations to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at iprcenter.gov/referral/ or by calling 866-IPR-2060.
The IPR Center, working collaboratively with its 27 public and private sector partners, stands at the forefront of the United States government’s response to combating global intellectual property theft and enforcing intellectual properties rights violations. The IPR Center was established to combat global intellectual property theft and, accordingly, has a significant role policing the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods on websites, social media and the dark web.
These efforts protect U.S. industry, the U.S. consumer, and the safety of the American public from the adverse economic impact and health dangers posed from introducing counterfeit products into U.S. commerce. Intellectual property rights violations can be reported to the IPR Center at iprcenter.gov.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
For more news and information on HSI’s efforts to aggressively investigate IPR cases in central and south Texas, follow us on X, formerly known as Twitter, @HSI_SanAntonio.