Counterfeiters counting on pandemic to pull in illicit profits
HOUSTON – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Houston Seaport intercepted a shipment of counterfeit N95 masks that with an estimated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of almost $350,000.
The shipment of counterfeit masks originated in China and were destined to White Plains, N.Y. before CBP officers intercepted it, April 7.
“Counterfeit goods not only hurt the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers, but they also pose substantial health and safety hazards for American consumers,” said Houston CBP Port Director Roderick Hudson “In this instance, these counterfeit N95 respirators may not be effective at filtering airborne particles.”
When the shipment arrived at the Houston Seaport, CBP officers examined it and found 171,460 masks with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health logo on the boxes. When CBP officers contacted the trademark holder, they were advised that this shipment was not licensed, and CBP determined the masks were in fact counterfeit.
Counterfeiters have recognized the demand for personal protective equipment remains high. In the first three months of calendar year 2021, CBP seized 18 million counterfeit face masks. For comparison, CBP seized more than 12 million counterfeit face masks in all of fiscal year 2020 and only 1,300 counterfeit face masks in fiscal year 2019.
For the Houston area of operations, CBP seized 2.1 million counterfeit PPE masks from January to March of this year which was a stark increase from the 365,000 counterfeit face masks seized in all of 2020.
Hudson cautions consumers to remain alert for counterfeit and unapproved PPE.
“A few simple steps that consumers can take to protect themselves from becoming unsuspecting victims to those peddling counterfeit goods are to purchase goods only from reputable retailers,” Hudson said. “And when shopping online, read the seller’s reviews, check for a working U.S. phone number and a U.S. address that can be used to contact the seller.”
The seized counterfeit masks were turned over to the agency’s Fines, Penalties and Forfeiture’s office for final disposition.
CBP officers work tirelessly to intercept and disrupt criminal activity.
In fiscal year 2020, CBP processed $2.4 trillion in imports; the end of the fiscal year 2019, CBP recorded more than 23,700 seizures of counterfeit goods, with an estimated value of $1.2 billion.
CBP has established an educational initiative to raise consumer awareness about the consequences and dangers associated with purchasing counterfeit and pirated goods online or in stores. To report suspected fraud or illegal trade activity, please contact CBP through the e-Allegations Online Trade Violation Reporting System or by calling 1-800-BE-ALERT.
Intellectual property rights violations can also be reported to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center or by telephone at 1-866-IPR-2060.