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Intellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud
11/24/2014

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ICE, industry warn public of holiday scams

WASHINGTON — A group of federal partners at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) teamed with industry and nonprofit organizations to warn consumers today to be wary of holiday shopping scams designed to dupe them into buying counterfeit products.

Federal agencies will be conducting increased operations during the holiday season targeting the importation and distribution of counterfeit and pirated products. Enforcement operations will be conducted by special agents, officers and import specialists from ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA OCI). This year, the federal government is teaming with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) to help get the word out to consumers about the dangers these products pose.

During the weeks leading up to the end of the year, the market is flooded with counterfeit products being sold at stores, on street corners, and online, not only ripping the consumer off and providing shoddy products, but also putting their personal financial information at risk. The most popular counterfeit products seized each year include headphones, sports jerseys, personal care products, shoes, toys, luxury goods, cell phones and electronic accessories.

Once it is determined that the items are counterfeit, federal officials will seize the merchandise. But in many instances, the damage to the consumer and the economy has already been done.

"These holiday law enforcement operations are a great example of the tremendous cooperation between all of our law enforcement and industry partners at the IPR Center. There are many good, legitimate deals out there, so don't let your perfect holiday present turn into a perfect nightmare," said Bruce Foucart, acting-director of the ICE-led IPR Center. "Consumers need to be aware that counterfeiters don't care if the products you buy are well constructed, or make you sick, or even arrive at all."

"The theft of intellectual property and the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods threatens America's innovation based economy, the competitiveness of our businesses, the livelihoods of U.S. workers, and, in some cases, national security and the health and safety of our consumers," said CBP International Trade Assistant Commissioner Brenda Smith. "Customs and Border Protection remains vigilant in our commitment to keep products made from stolen intellectual property out of the U.S. and, through our partnership with HSI, other government agencies and our trading partners, is working to ensure that those responsible for trade in counterfeit goods are held accountable under the law."

"Consumers should be aware that holiday offers that are too good to be true can mask a fraud," said Philip J. Walsky, acting-director of FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations. "The FDA is on the alert and will take action to stop illegal practices related to FDA-regulated products."

In the coming weeks, the GIPC will launch a consumer awareness campaign to assist in the overall educational effort, including the release of Top Ten Tips to Protect Yourself for shoppers now and throughout the year.

"If the latest, greatest holiday wish-list item is available on a website at too-good-to-be-true prices, make sure you know who you are doing business with. Increasingly sophisticated criminal counterfeiters will not only sell you dangerous or substandard products, they will often try to take your credit card info and make off with your identity as well," said David Hirschmann, president and CEO for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center. "The impact to our economy is huge, with 40 million jobs in highly innovative industries who lose when fake products steal from their legitimate businesses. And with more consumers turning to the internet for their purchases, the impact to consumer safety is also very real. Going to verified online stores or the website of the original company or retailer is the best way to protect yourself from shoddy and often dangerous fakes."

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 23-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.

Report IP Theft

To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 11/26/2014