LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Federal agents are cracking down on counterfeit NFL gear worth millions of dollars, pouring into Southern California as Los Angeles gets ready to host the Super Bowl.
Thousands of fans are expected to make their way to Inglewood for Super Bowl LVI. And in anticipation, federal agents are already confiscating fake NFL merchandise headed our way.
Fake, or counterfeit NFL merchandise, is big business for criminals. During last year's Super Bowl, federal authorities say they confiscated nearly $45 million dollars in fake merchandise.
"Simply put, counterfeiting is a crime. It's nothing more than stealing," said Carlos Martel, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection showed off some of the fake goods they've already confiscated, including a fake Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy.
E-commerce has increased tremendously in recent years, and that means sports fans are ordering their team's merchandise.
"Now, when consumers purchase good in support of their favorite teams, they expect to get the real deal," said Martel. "Criminals and counterfeiters are doing nothing more than deceiving and exploiting fan enthusiasm by sending low-quality fake goods to them."
Intellectual property rights, or IPR, violations are what Customs and Border Protection looks for when it inspects cargo. With the Super Bowl just around the corner, more and more counterfeit merchandise is making its way to Southern California, and that has federal agents using state-of-the-art equipment to look out for the fake goods.
"It presents a national security concern," said LAX Area Port Director Cheryl Davies. "Often times, companies that are importing counterfeit merchandise are related to transnational criminal organizations."
The fake goods, according to federal agents, hurt the local economy by taking away from the licensed vendors who pay the NFL fees to sell their merchandise.
The advice from federal agents is to make sure you're getting the real deal to cheer on the Rams for Super Bowl LVI. Go to a reputable retailer that's selling authentic NFL merchandise.