Even if you have never purchased a watch from a shady-looking guy wearing a trench coat or a “designer” handbag at a fraction of the original cost from a street vendor, there is a chance that you have bought counterfeited products without ever realizing it.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center, authorities are only able to intercept a small percentage of the $461 billion in global trade-related counterfeiting that takes place.
Plus, the internet has made it easier than ever to buy counterfeit products
“Counterfeiters are following the same patterns as consumers who are shopping online and displacing brick and mortar,” Bob Barchiesi, president of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, told the Los Angeles Times. “The Internet is a very big challenge, to say the least. The ease of purchasing something that’s shipped directly to your house is a significant problem for rights holders and customs. It’s a dramatic shift that’s very difficult to stop.”
Although buying knockoffs might seem like a frugal way to obtain desirable merchandise, counterfeit sales and purchases have damaging results—fake products can impact jobs and the overall economy. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that counterfeiting and piracy enable criminal networks and organized crime to thrive. Since phony products are typically subpar, they can even endanger the health and safety of consumers who buy or use them.
By reviewing data about shipments seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection during the 2016 fiscal year, 24/7 Wall St. determined the most counterfeited products in the United States. The following items account for the largest shares of total products confiscated based on the number of shipments seized during the year.
10. Car Parts
Law enforcement officials have seized everything from phony seat belts to brake pads and rotors to wheels, which can be hazardous to drivers as they likely weren’t made to comply with U.S. standards.
9. Tags And Labels
Sometimes, all it takes is a brand name to make a knockoff look convincingly real. Apparently, scammers can make a great deal of money simply by swapping tags. In 2012, a man allegedly smuggled in enough labels to make $192,000 worth of counterfeit Levi’s jeans.
8. Computer Products And Accessories
Counterfeit hardware may be less expensive to purchase than the real thing, but it can cost a lot more in the long run. The fake parts can open the door to malware, hackers and system failures.
7. CDs, DVDs And Other Media
Although the number of optical media products such as CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs confiscated by the government has declined (likely due to changes in how consumers access movies, games and music), the value of these seizures was $8.2 million in 2016, according to 24/7 Wall St.
6. Pharmaceuticals And Beauty Items
People often purchase medications from alternative sources in an attempt to save money. However, the FDA warns that counterfeit drugs may include incorrect or hazardous ingredients as well as improper dosages of correct ingredients.
5. Purses, Handbags And Wallets
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s walked down the street in a big city before. Some of the most popular brands of purses and wallets that are replicated by counterfeiters include Coach, Michael Kors, Gucci and Chanel.
4. Jewelry And Watches
According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, around 30 million original Swiss watches are produced every year, while tens of millions of fake Swiss watches find their way to the market. Watches and jewelry made up 11 percent of total seizures in 2016, according to 24/7 Wall St.
The U.S. government seized more than $50 million worth of counterfeit footwear in 2016. While designer heels are certainly making the rounds, bootlegged sneakers are also highly popular and profitable to counterfeiters.
2. Consumer Electronics
Millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit electronics have been seized by government officials, but others have made their way to stores and homes. The dangers of these cheap knockoffs range from starting house fires to funding terrorism. They can also be harmful to your health.
“You’re risking high levels of lead, high levels of cadmium, high levels of chlorine,” Stanley Salot, president and CEO of the Center for Counterfeit Avoidance, told CBS Miami about knockoff iPhones.
1. Clothing And Accessories
Everybody loves a good deal on a great outfit, but be aware that the clothing you buy with an amazing discount could leave you with a dud. Clothing tops the list of the most counterfeited products in the U.S., making up 20 percent of all seizures in 2016.
Remember: If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
If you suspect someone of making, importing or selling counterfeit products, the International Trade Administration provides information on reporting the activity to the appropriate government agency.