Feds Warn Of Holiday Scams, Counterfeit Products

MIAMI (AP) — Federal authorities warned the public on Tuesday of holiday scams involving counterfeit products including cellphone accessories and luxury goods.

“It always comes down to the adage: You get what you pay for,” said Gerard O’Neil, the assistance special agent in charge in Miami of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. “And in the instance of items that are made in infringement patent and trademark violations, or knock-offs as they call them, the consumer does not get what they pay for.”

The merchandise is inferior in design and performance, he explained, often breaking down or failing apart not long after purchase.

“They may look pretty, but essentially they are junk,” he said.

The most popular counterfeit products include headphones, sports jerseys, shoes, perfumes, toys and watches.

Over the last year, agents with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations have performed 350 seizures that netted more than 750,000 fake items with a value at the wholesale level of $14 million. The manufactured retail price is valued at over $80 million, authorities said.

“Basically they’re a parasite that is draining off of U.S. jobs and the economy and the consumer,” O’Neil said.

The market is flooded with counterfeit products being sold at stores, on street corners and online during the holiday shopping season, authorities said.

“Consumers need to be aware that counterfeiters don’t care if the products you buy are well made, if they make you sick, or if they arrive at all,” Lev Kubiak, director of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, said in a press release. “These criminals are preying on your holiday spirit of giving to make a quick buck and fund their criminal enterprises.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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