Fake hoverboards: Chicago customs officers seize more than 16,000 counterfeits

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Customs officers in Chicago have seized 16,000 counterfeit hoverboards they say can pose a serious safety risk. (WLS)

Customs officers in Chicago have seized at least 16,000 counterfeit hoverboards they say can pose a serious safety risk.

Authorities continue to process more than 42,000 boxes of what they believe to be fake hoverboards. The substandard products - enough to fill two warehouses - were seized in just one week in January.

"We were holding two-thirds of an air freight cargo plane with just hoverboards on hold. Two-thirds and then plane after plane after plane for a week," said James Putman, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

This is the largest seizure of its kind since hoverboards first hit store shelves in the United States. The self-balancing scooters are so expensive that manufacturers - especially in China - have been cutting corners to get them to consumers at a cheaper price.

"The batteries do not meet safety standards. The chargers as well," said William Ferrara, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is currently investigating over 40 fires involving hoverboards. It's the reason they're now banned from most airlines and a growing number of college campuses.

Some of the seized hoverboards have what looks like a Samsung battery pack, but Samsung doesn't produce battery packs - just the individual batteries. Officials say the labels are used by counterfeiters trying to convince consumers into thinking they are buying a trustworthy product. Counterfeits today are so good, it's hard for the average consumer to tell the difference.

"You have to really know who you're buying from but also the manufacturer itself. You want to do your homework. So if you're buying a hoverboard and you find the company and they will tell you the retailers or resellers of the product and stick with it," said Steve Bernas, Better Business Bureau.

There are no safety standards when it comes to hoverboards, and that is part of the problem. But customs officials believe they're making progress when it comes to stopping counterfeits. The massive seizures have led importers to no longer use Chicago as a transit point - at least for now.
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