CLEVELAND — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) are advising fans to protect themselves against counterfeit merchandise and tickets as the NFL season kicks into gear.
Counterfeit jerseys, headwear, T-shirts, and other souvenir items are among the counterfeit merchandise typically sold at and around these events. Large sporting events are prime targets for counterfeiters, many of whom travel the country with the sole intention of scamming sports fans.
"We want the community to enjoy their experience and not have to worry about being victimized by these scammers. By looking out for some basic red flags, fans can act as the first line of defense against these types of schemes," said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio. "Major sports events can create a ripe environment for criminal groups to exploit the enthusiasm of fans by marketing counterfeit goods and tickets."
Although counterfeiters are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, fans can keep several key factors in mind when making purchases to avoid being victimized:
- Purchase merchandise at established retailers, such as the official team stores and NFLShop.com, rather than buying items from street vendors, flea markets, or other questionable sources.
- If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. However, while some counterfeiters may attract fans with a low price tag or two-for-one deal, just as many try to legitimize their merchandise with a higher price point. Purchase merchandise from reputable sources.
- Look for the NFL hologram as an essential element of NFL merchandise authentication.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity.
The HSI-led IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety and the U.S. economy.