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November 23, 2016New York, NY, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud, Cyber Crimes

'Buyer Beware!' Counterfeit goods and the holiday shopping season

NEW YORK — Just in time for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday shopping season, two federal law enforcement agencies offered a joint media event Tuesday in New York to highlight counterfeit goods and consumer awareness.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) hosted a presentation about goods with fake trademarks and how consumers can protect themselves. 

“We know there are consumers who knowingly purchase knock-offs,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI New York. “To them I say, counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. It not only threatens our national security by endangering the health and safety of consumers, it also wreaks havoc on our economy and funds criminal elements involved in other illegal activities.”

In 2015, the number of seizures made nationally due to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) violations increased 25 percent from the previous year, totaling more than 28,000 seizures with an estimated value of more than $1.3 billion.

While watches and handbags are considered the most counterfeited items, intellectual property thieves will counterfeit any product that can be sold or marketed.  Some of those trends include counterfeit drugs, medical equipment, aircraft and automobile parts, computer hardware, military components, and electrical safety devices.

The trafficking of counterfeit goods coming across the U.S. border is part of a global, multibillion dollar crime linked to organized criminal groups and serious health hazards. According to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, businesses worldwide lose an estimated $600 to $700 billion annually due to counterfeiting.

While the sale of merchandise with IPR violations has traditionally been seen in store fronts, warehouses or on the street, criminal organizations have become savvy in setting up online stores to trick the public into believing they are purchasing legitimate goods on legitimate websites.  HSI teamed with industry and international law enforcement leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year and shut down more than 30,000 domain names that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online to unsuspecting consumers. HSI is supporting those operations again this year.

In 2015, tactical interagency collaboration with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) resulted in 538 arrests, with 339 indictments, and 357 convictions.

Each year, more than 11 million maritime containers arrive at our seaports. At our land borders, another 10 million arrive by truck, and 3 million arrive by rail. An additional quarter billion more cargo, postal, and express consignment packages arrive through air travel. The agencies within the Department of Homeland Security remain vigilant in targeting shipments posing risks to the American people.