Customs officials warn consumers against counterfeit goods

Counterfeit goods seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Consumers should be wary of counterfeit goods sold online, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials warned while displaying counterfeit items seized from cargo shipments in Atlanta.

Customs officials set up a table in the middle of the international terminal of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday, displaying counterfeit bags, clothing, shoes, sunglasses and other items they seized with the aim of raising awareness of counterfeit goods.

Many of the counterfeit items come from China and Southeast Asia, according to Customs and Border Protection’s Atlanta port director Paula Rivera.

Customs and Border Protection has an intellectual property rights program to target and seize imports of counterfeit and pirated goods -- and nationwide it seized $3.7 million worth of such goods on a typical day in 2018.

The agency prepares for the holiday season months early, since inventory for holiday sales begins shipping as early as May and June, Rivera said. That includes products like Christmas lights, which might have counterfeit safety certifications, and toys, which can be seized if they contain excessive amounts of lead.

A consumer may not know “that they’re getting a product that isn’t genuine,” Rivera said. She advised that consumers should do research, buy from reputable distributors and get brand name goods like a Michael Kors bag directly from Michael Kors.

If a counterfeit item is seized from a cargo shipment by Customs and Border Protection, the shipment may never make it to the recipient.

By using tracking numbers from UPS, FedEx or the Postal Service, consumers may find out if their item was seized by the agency. To get a refund for a counterfeit item, consumers would need to deal with the company they ordered from, Rivera said.

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