CHICAGO (WLS) -- US Customs and Border Protection in Chicago is warning consumers to watch out for counterfeit goods this holiday season, especially when you shop online.
Each year agents seize millions of fake goods, including fake versions of popular electronics and luxury items.
"We see at the mail facility 57 million parcels a year and between November and January. We consider it our holiday peak season," said Hans Leiterman, assistant area port director with US Customs and Border Protection. "We see roughly a third of our volume during that time."
Each container is carefully scanned by customs and border patrol officers, and what's inside isn't always as advertised.
"They look at the X-ray images. Through knowledge they know, 'wait a minute, this box says shoes coming from somewhere in Asia. Companies like Nike don't ship through the post office,'" Leiterman said. "The officers know this is something that needs to be looked at."
What might look like luxury items, like designer handbags, jackets, jewelry, and even guns and cigarettes, are very often counterfeit commodities.
These counterfeits account for millions of dollars worth of illegal merchandise that is all considered intellectual property theft.
"For fiscal year 2020, CBP seized approximately 26,000 shipments containing counterfeit goods that would have been worth a little over $1.3 billion," Leiterman said.
US Customs and Border Patrol officers said the pandemic has opened up a brand new marketplace for illegal healthcare items that could slip through and pose a danger to vulnerable American consumers
"We've seen, with the whole COVID-19 pandemic, violations of face masks, test kits, things of that nature," Leiterman said.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CBP has seized more than 13.5 million counterfeit face masks and more than 177,000 unapproved COVID-19 test kits.
So now, the pandemic holiday has officers on heightened alert.