US flag Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Archived Content

In an effort to keep CBP.gov current, the archive contains content from a previous administration or is otherwise outdated.

‘Tis the Season: Protect Yourself from Holiday Counterfeiters

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Online shopping has become a hallmark of the holiday season as people search for that perfect gift for family, friends, coworkers, and clients. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants all consumers to know that there are plenty of scam artists eager to sell fake goods in place of the genuine article.

Counterfeit and pirated products threaten our economic security by hurting legitimate businesses who invest significant amounts of resources into protecting their brands. Even worse, these products often pose serious health and safety hazards to the people who buy and use them.

Counterfeit electronics can overheat due to improper manufacturing processes, and fake bicycle helmets can break upon impact. Phony cosmetics can lead to skin ailments, and even seasonal holiday lights can be poorly made, resulting in fires.

There are steps shoppers can take to protect themselves year-round. Exercise caution when buying merchandise through social media platforms. Avoid clicking on suspicious advertisements either emailed directly or found while searching the Internet.

Key signs that a website may be peddling counterfeit goods include:

  • All the products listed are on sale or offered at extremely low prices.
  • The website does not have proper contact information.
  • The product is not shipping from within the United States.
  • The buyer is redirected to an external online payment system during checkout.

Counterfeit products may be unusually packaged and the brand name may be misspelled. Pirated products also may lack the proper markings from independent safety organizations. Consumers are advised to review return policies, and contact the website for more information. If returning the item is not an option, contact the bank to see if they offer any type of fraud protection, and report the crime through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tip Line 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

CBP’s Intellectual Property Rights Center works with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property to fight criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The Center’s 23 member agencies share information and coordinate investigations and enforcement actions.

The stakes are high: a recent survey by the National Retail Federation found that online holiday shopping sales are expected to top $105 billion this holiday season. Facilitating lawful trade and protecting the U.S. economy is an important part of our mission. CBP wishes everyone a safe, smart holiday shopping season.

Last modified: 
February 8, 2017