Buyer Beware: Counterfeit goods this holiday season

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Saturday, November 21, 2015
Buyer Beware: Counterfeit goods this holiday season
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Federal officials warn of counterfeit products this holiday shopping season.

CARSON, Calif. (KABC) -- The holiday shopping season is here and federal officials want to make sure you get what you pay for.

The Department of Homeland Security is sending out a warning about counterfeit goods which may not just be fake, they could be a safety hazard.

Counterfeit goods is a multi-billion dollar industry, ranging from jewelry to shoes, electronics, apparel and even motorcycle helmets.

But telling the difference can be tough.

"It could be almost impossible to tell the difference between counterfeit items and the real thing," Jerry Miles with the Department of Homeland Security said.

The Department of Homeland Security gathered experts at a trade enforcement coordination center to show how agents identify illegal products.

Agents used Ugg boots as one example.

"You can tell the foam doesn't bend, it's very hard, it's incredibly uncomfortable to wear. This is a genuine boot. The foam is much softer it's a much more flexible," Graham Thatcher with Ugg explained.

"Price is the number one indicator. If it's so much lower than the market price, you have to be very cautious of what you're purchasing," Miles said.

Experts warn that sellers are posting knock-offs on fancy websites that may look legitimate.

"If the website that you're making the purchase from doesn't have a way to contact the website or contact the vendor, you should be very cautious of that website," Miles said.

Some products such as a counterfeit extension cord could be a safety hazard. It's very flimsy and doesn't have enough copper inside. Over time, it can heat up and catch fire.

Last year, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized over $1 billion worth of counterfeit merchandise.

On Friday, they served search warrants at businesses in downtown Los Angeles they believe are involved in the sale of counterfeit items.

Officials remind consumers it's not just a blow to the economy, but often an inhumane business that involves child labor.

"There's a dark story about counterfeit that is overlooked. It's not only the impact to the economy there's a human tragedy behind," Jaime Ruiz with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.