SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - In advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations joined Tuesday to caution the public about the real dangers of purchasing goods that may be counterfeit, restricted or prohibited.
This joint engagement with local media is designed to make the public aware of the real dangers of such products and how these products are part of a larger transnational criminal enterprise.
“The dangers of buying counterfeit products aren’t always obvious. There are economic impacts, legal implications, and health and safety risks that are important for you to know before you buy,” stated Efrain Rivas, Assistant Director of Field Operations for Trade at the San Juan Field Office. “Particularly, when shopping online, beware of counterfeit goods. Fake goods can lead to real dangers.”
Many consumers are unaware of all the negative components to purchasing counterfeit items. Consumers are purchasing prescription medications from other countries thinking they are getting them at a discount, when in fact they are purchasing an inferior product with unregulated ingredients. This is a dangerous game consumers are playing that could have deadly results.
HSI San Juan Special Agent in charge, Rebecca Gonzalez-Ramos, said: “We encourage consumers to take a stand to let criminals know that they won’t be tricked into making counterfeit purchases. HSI’s IPR Center is committed to investigating and arresting those who prey on innocent consumers and taking action to stop the sale of counterfeit goods on the Internet and in stores. We will continue our enforcement efforts over the holiday season to catch counterfeiters and to protect the health and safety of holiday shoppers.”
The top three categories affecting the health and safety of the consumer were personal care, pharmaceuticals, and consumer electronics. The majority of counterfeit items stem from China and Hong Kong.
Nationwide, CBP and HSI seized 20,812 shipments containing goods that violated Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, which equates to nearly 25 million counterfeit goods. The total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was over $2.98 billion (USD). In FY 2022, ICE-HSI arrested 255 individuals, obtained 192 indictments, and received 95 convictions related to intellectual property crimes.
In the 2022 federal fiscal year, the CBP San Juan Field Office made 1,377 Seizures with a combined MSRP of more than $36 million, while in fiscal year 2023, the Field Office executed 1,313 Seizures with a combined MSRP of nearly $21 million.
Just recently, the Global Trade Investigations (GTI) group seized approximately 479 counterfeit sports uniforms (jerseys and shorts) at a Guaynabo residence being sold as the original product. Additionally, the individual had previous shipments of sports uniforms seized by CBP for IPR violations. These uniforms bore famous and protected trademarks. These seizures are part of the San Juan Trade Enforcement Coordination Center (San Juan TECC) investigative efforts. The San Juan TECC is comprised of specialized HSI and CBP personnel to identify and seize illegal and fraudulent shipped goods destined to be introduced into the United States commerce, in addition to disrupting and dismantling criminal organizations, that exploit the international trade for illegal purposes and unfair trade practices.
CBP will continue to stop these dangerous shipments and will continue to educate the public about the dangers of these medications. CBP continues to utilize a multi-layered approach to identify and combat import risks, trade fraud, detect high risk activity, deter non-compliance, and disrupt fraudulent behavior.
CBP established an educational initiative to raise consumer awareness about the consequences and dangers associated with purchasing counterfeit and pirated goods online or in stores. More information about that initiative is available at www.cbp.gov/fakegoodsrealdangers.
CBP and HSI protect businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive IPR enforcement program. CBP targets and seizes imports of counterfeit and pirated goods, and enforces exclusion orders on patent-infringing and other IPR violative goods.
If you have any information regarding suspected fraud or illegal trade activity, please submit an allegation to CBP through the Trade Violations Reporting Tool or by calling 1-800-BE-ALERT.
Intellectual property rights violations can also be reported to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at https://www.iprcenter.gov/referral/ or by telephone at 1-866-IPR-2060.
For more information about protecting yourself from counterfeit and pirated goods, visit https://www.stopfakes.gov/.