How to spot and avoid counterfeit goods while shopping this holiday season

Posted at 4:16 PM, Dec 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-11 16:17:10-05

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Online shopping is the future, but it’s also an easy way for criminals to sell you fake - and dangerous - goods.

There were boxes full of counterfeit products at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility Tuesday in Chesapeake.

They were recently confiscated by the Department of Homeland Security.

Authorities said if you see a deal that’s too good to be true, it probably is.

“If you’re seeing UGG Boots for $10.99, that’s probably not a real UGG Boot,” said Carissa Cutrell, Public Affairs Officer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Cutrell said pay close attention to detail when buying online or at places like flea markets.

“You can tell it’s not a real UGG Boot by looking at the lining on it; you can tell this is just a synthetic. This is not leather; you can smell that,” she explained.

Even worse than losing your money is ending up in the hospital.

“We’ve seen cosmetics that have chemicals that you wouldn’t normally put in cosmetics in them. People have rashes, allergic reactions to them,” Cutrell told News 3’s Brian Hill.

Other merchandise can be deadly, like counterfeit airbags that don’t deploy.

“We’ve also seen Christmas lights that ignite Christmas trees,” said Cutrell.

Border protection officers admit there are some people who like getting their hands on fake luxury goods.

“[If] it hasn’t been thoroughly tested by the various government agents, you may get items that overheat to quickly or catch fire or maybe harmful if they’re introduced to the environment,” Chief Customs and Border Protection Officer Louis Rossero explained. "They do affect our economy.”

Officials said take time to inspect them – in person or via the website -  before giving away your money.

“We urge you to shop through authorized realtors, even online, but if you’re on a website and you see issues with English grammar or if you see that the pictures are really fuzzy or there is no contact information, those are all red flags,” Cutrell said.

If you believe you have purchased a counterfeit item, call Homeland Security.