Authorities Warn Shoppers About Counterfeit Goods Ahead of Black Friday

‘A large majority of the goods that we seized are from China and Hong Kong, probably between 70 and 80 percent of the goods,’ a U.S. border official says.
Authorities Warn Shoppers About Counterfeit Goods Ahead of Black Friday
Francis Russo, the director of the CBP's New York field office, speaks at a press conference at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Nov. 22, 2023. (Lin Dan/The Epoch Times)

U.S. officials advise shoppers on the hunt for Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains to be cautious of counterfeit products, especially those advertised with low prices.

Officials from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) warned that counterfeit goods could cause significant losses for American businesses and workers and put customers’ health and safety at risk.

At a Nov. 22 press conference at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, federal authorities displayed a recent seizure of counterfeit handbags, backpacks, wallets, beanies, shoes, watches, and sunglasses emblazoned with logos from renowned brands like Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Chanel, Christian Dior, and Fendi. The counterfeit goods also included knockoff toys, bicycle helmets, makeup, iPhones, and even fake Oscar statues.

“A large majority of the goods that we seized are from China and Hong Kong, probably between 70 and 80 percent of the goods,” Francis Russo, the director of the CBP’s New York field office, told NTD, the sister media outlet of The Epoch Times.

Every year, U.S. authorities seize more than 25 million counterfeit goods, with more than 30 percent of them coming through New York customs, according to Mr. Russo.

If the knockoffs had been real, the estimated retail value could be over $2.98 billion, he said.

Aside from China, there are also some counterfeit goods from Thailand, Turkey, the Philippines, and India, officials said.

Beware of Counterfeit Goods Online

The boom in e-commerce also contributed to an increase in fake merchandise flowing into the United States.

As more people shopped online, officials said the number of packages that entered the United States through New York and New Jersey customs has increased nearly 10-fold, from 20 million in 2019 to 210 million in 2022, of which 1 to 2 percent could be fake products.

“We continue to see an increase of counterfeit goods coming from all over the world, especially from China and Hong Kong,” Mr. Russo told NTD.

The message from border officials coincides with retailers gearing up to slash their prices for Black Friday, which takes place on Nov. 24 this year. Online platforms, including Amazon, have already kicked off a week of sales leading up to the annual event.

Marina Vitaz, an assistant special agent-in-charge of HSI, warned shoppers to be vigilant about online deals that seem enticingly low.

“If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!” Ms. Vitaz said.

Many bargain-savvy customers are unaware of the negative impacts of buying counterfeit items, the officials said.

They listed the top three categories that affected health and safety: personal care, pharmaceuticals, and consumer electronics. For example, fake prescription medicines sold online from other countries may contain unregulated ingredients, which could lead to heart disease or even death.

However, other counterfeit products could also pose risks to customers’ safety. Officials noted that some knockoff toys may expose toddlers to toxic substances or heavy metals, such as lead.

In addition to individual harm, the authorities said the surge in counterfeit goods could siphon billions of dollars from the global economy, diverting revenue from legitimate businesses and potentially resulting in job losses over time.

“We really stressed to the customers, to the citizens, not to buy counterfeit goods because they’re unsafe, and they fund criminal organizations,” Mr. Russo said.

Federal authorities in New York announced last week that they confiscated a substantial amount of counterfeit designer products valued at over $1 billion. Described by officials as the largest-ever confiscation of counterfeit goods in U.S. history, two men were charged with trafficking these items from storage units in Manhattan, starting from January this year up until October.
The U.S. government has said the Chinese regime leads the world in the creation of counterfeit and pirated goods. Some 75 percent of the value of all counterfeit and pirated goods seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2021 originated in China, according to the latest report from the office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai.

The USTR report identified 39 online and 33 physical markets that reportedly sold or facilitated trade in counterfeit or pirated goods. The department’s Notorious Markets List includes several popular Chinese sites, such as Taobao, owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and WeChat, the country’s most popular social media app.

“The widespread trade in counterfeit and pirated goods harms the economic security of American workers and undermines our work to craft equitable and inclusive trade policy,” Ms. Tai said in a January statement accompanying the report.

“The Notorious Markets List is an important tool that urges the private sector and our trading partners to take action against these harmful practices.”

Andrew Thornebrooke and NTD staff contributed to this report.