Federal authorities seized more than $30 million in counterfeit designer handbags, backpacks and other goods at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted 13,586 counterfeit items that arrived in a shipment from China. The products included handbags, tote bags, shoulder bags, cross-body bags, backpacks, shirts and pants being passed off as genuine items from Gucci, Chanel, Fendi, Yves Saint-Laurent and Louis Vuitton, officials said Thursday.
Customs officers and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations special agents seized the shipment Nov. 9, officials said. If the items were genuine, they would have a total estimated value of $30.4 million.
"CBP commits substantial law enforcement resources to keep counterfeit and pirated goods out of U.S. supply chains, markets and streets," said Carlos C. Martel, the agency's director of field operations in Los Angeles. "Now more than ever, CBP officers remain vigilant, committed and focused on disrupting these smuggling operations."
Counterfeit products have historically been sold on illegitimate websites or in underground markets, but officials said the rise of e-commerce has made it easier for sellers to hide behind what look like legitimate listings on well-known websites.
“Bad actors exploit e-commerce operations by selling counterfeit and unsafe goods through online platforms, particularly during the holiday season when shoppers are looking for deals," said Donald R. Kusser, CBP's port director at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex. "If the price of the product seems too good to be true, it probably is. Counterfeit goods are often of poor quality and can even be unsafe for you and your family."
The agency recommends shoppers take the following steps to protect themselves from counterfeit goods:
Make purchases directly from the trademark holder or from authorized retailers.
Read seller reviews and check for a working U.S. phone number and address that can be used to contact the seller if shopping online.
Review CBP’s E-Commerce Counterfeit Awareness Guide for Consumers.
Common signs that an item is not legitimate are poor or uneven stitching, fragile fabric and logos that aren't the right size or that don't match the official brand design, authorities said.
In the fiscal year that ran from Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020, CBP seized 26,503 shipments of counterfeit goods, officials said. If genuine, the items would have been worth about $1.3 billion.
For more information, visit CBP's website: www.cbp.gov/trade/fakegoodsrealdangers.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.