LAREDO – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officials recently convened at Laredo's World Trade Bridge to issue a vital advisory through local media ahead of the holiday season. Their message is clear: steer clear of counterfeit or suspicious goods that could jeopardize consumer safety or undermine legitimate trademark holders.
The Port Director of Laredo Port of Entry, Albert Flores, stressed, "As holiday gift shopping picks up, it's crucial for the public to avoid purchasing counterfeit or questionable goods, whether online, in stores, flea markets, or elsewhere." CBP and HSI, working in tandem as a robust trade enforcement team, aim to spot, intercept, investigate, and take action against entities attempting to import and vend counterfeit or unsafe goods. These not only endanger consumers but also threaten licensed U.S. trademark holders and the nation's economic stability.
Craig Larrabee, the special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio, warned, "Criminals remain active during the holidays, making it essential for consumers to safeguard themselves during this bustling season." The sale of counterfeit items not only introduces subpar and often hazardous products into the market but also drains employment opportunities and fuels proceeds funneling into broader criminal networks. HSI remains committed to collaborating with enforcement partners to combat the flow of counterfeit products. Their advice to consumers: if a deal seems too good to be true, it likely is.
During a demonstration at World Trade Bridge's inspection dock, CBP officers, import specialists, and HSI agents showcased confiscated items breaching U.S. intellectual property and consumer safety laws. These ranged from clothing to electronics, lacking proper authorization from licensed U.S. trademarks for production and import, or falsely claiming adherence to U.S. safety standards.
CBP data highlights handbags, apparel, footwear, watches, jewelry, and electronics as particularly prone to counterfeiting. Counterfeit versions of renowned brands frequently surface online or at flea markets. Beyond the hazards of unregulated production, profits from these sales often bolster organized crime networks.
In the fiscal year 2022, CBP and HSI intercepted 20,812 shipments containing nearly 25 million counterfeit goods, valued at over $2.98 billion if genuine. HSI's actions led to 255 arrests, 192 indictments, and 95 convictions related to intellectual property crimes during the same period.
To protect consumers from substandard and unsafe products, CBP seizes merchandise infringing on trademarks and copyrights through the e-Recordation program. They've launched educational campaigns, like "The Truth Behind Counterfeits," to raise awareness about the risks associated with purchasing fake goods.
Consumers are encouraged to:
- Buy directly from trademark holders or authorized retailers.
- Scrutinize online sellers, checking reviews and ensuring accessible U.S. contact details.
- Refer to CBP's E-Commerce Counterfeit Awareness Guide.
- Exercise caution when deals appear unusually cheap.
Counterfeiting isn't a victimless crime. It infringes on trademark rights, disrupts revenue for small businesses, and cheats consumers of their money, offering low-quality products and exposing them to financial scams.
Intellectual property rights violations can be reported to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center or the IPR Center. This collaborative effort aims to combat global intellectual property theft across various platforms, safeguarding U.S. industries and consumers.
HSI, a key investigative arm within the Department of Homeland Security, combats transnational crime by targeting criminal organizations exploiting international trade and finance networks. Their extensive workforce and global presence reinforce the U.S. government's efforts to tackle intellectual property theft and counterfeit product distribution, ensuring public safety and economic stability.
For further information or reporting violations, visit www.iprcenter.gov.