How to spot knock-off goods as counterfeit gifts make way to Chicago area

Authorities say the act of buying fake goods is responsible for about 750K US jobs lost annually
CHICAGO, Ill. (WLS) -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection are warning consumers about counterfeit gifts making their way to the Chicago area.

The federal agency said the "knock-offs" can pose health and safety risks to consumers.

"They are labeled with false information and this can pose a serious risk to people who buy them," Shane Campbell, Chicago Port Director with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said at a press conference Tuesday.

Items are made to look like the authentic designer brands. Fake purses, watches, electronics and clothing could be under your tree during the holidays.

"It is not a victimless crime," Campbell said.

The area port director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said his officers seized $7.8 million in counterfeit merchandise last year alone.

"If you buy the counterfeit ones, you don't know what kind of chemicals they were used to make the merchandise, so sometimes formaldehyde is used in clothing in other countries," said Chief Customs and Border Protection officer, Eric Everson.

Authorities said those chemicals, which are not used in the real products, can give you an allergic reaction. There are also dangerous holiday lights and chargers, which can start fires.

"They're a fire hazard, never quite get to power up the battery and they overheat," Campbell warned.

Fake key FOBS may not only not start your car, but also make you a victim of car theft.

"They can be manufactured by people who are going to use the information that they've sold to you, to find your car and steal it from you, " Everson said.

How do you avoid a phony item?

"Remember, if you're buying something and the price seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true," Campbell advised.

If you're paying $50 for a $1,500 designer handbag, it's fake.

You should also make sure you're shopping on reputable websites and reading reviews. If shopping in-person, look for misplaced logos on items and poor stitching.

"A lot of times, you can just feel the quality of a product, and you know when you know it's supposed to be leather and it feels like plastic --it's a good indication that it's a fake product," Campbell added.

Of course, some consumers know they're buying counterfeit goods and just want the cheap price. But authorities said you should remember the safety risks.

They also said the act of buying fake goods is responsible for about 750,000 U.S. jobs lost annually.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.