Holiday shoppers warned against buying fake merchandise

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Holiday shoppers are asked to be wary of scammers operating overseas and selling counterfeit merchandise. (KABC)

Holiday shoppers are asked to be wary of scammers operating overseas and selling counterfeit merchandise.

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than 24,000 counterfeit products nationwide, retail valued at more than $1.7 billion.

"You don't really know what you get until it arrives in the mail, and then at that point, there's nothing really you can do," said Graham Thatcher, an Ugg brand protection associate.

Investigators say the popularity of online shopping is helping criminals.

"It can go directly to the user in a smaller parcel, coming in air freight, so it's more of a needle in a haystack," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge at the Los Angeles Homeland Security Investigations Office.

Counterfeit items come in all forms: shirts, jerseys, golf clubs, designer purses, colognes and over-the-counter medicine. The knockoffs won't only hurt your wallet, they could make you sick.

"We test these, and repeatedly, we find carcinogens in these products. We find animal urine, really disgusting things," Arnold said.

To make sure you're getting the real thing when shopping online, Homeland Security says to do your research and don't be afraid to call the contact number on the website.

"Counterfeiters, a lot of times, they don't even answer with a company name. They don't speak English and they don't want to talk to you, because they're breaking the law," Arnold said.


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