State officials warn against record number of counterfeit goods ahead of holiday season

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Across the country and here in this state, record numbers of counterfeit goods are being seized.

The items are often sold at flea markets, in local stores and even on popular websites.

But, the goods are not only fakes – they can also be dangerous.

From iPhones to Louis Vuitton bags–they look like some of the must-have items this holiday season–but they’re fake.

“The counterfeiting business is absolutely huge,” said NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall whose office is charged with enforcing trademark protections. 

“The predictions are that it’s in the trillions of dollars worldwide.”

The number of counterfeit goods seized in North Carolina has increased dramatically

“Anything we can make, somebody else can fake,” said Marshall. “that’s because technology has improved greatly.”

Last year, the state seized $50 million in counterfeit goods and made scores of arrests.

“We have a task force here in NC that I started in 2004 with over 100 officers trained to identify these things,”

It’s not just North Carolina fighting the counterfeit wave.

The feds say waves of counterfeit goods are flowing into the U.S. — many sold by third-party on e-commerce sites.

A recent government accountability office investigation found 20 out of 47 items purchased from third-party sellers were counterfeit.

“Our biggest concern is illicit pharmaceuticals coming in,” said David Abbate of Homeland Security.

Among the fake drugs are everything from fake Viagra to phony cancer drugs and painkillers.

“It’s coming in it’s usually coming from China and it may or may not be what the consumer thinks it is,” said Abbate.

Not only do counterfeit goods impact you, companies and their employees that sell the real products are also victims.

“You’re really stealing from other citizens too because sales tax is not paid on these and those taxes support our fire, our rescue, our police, our schools–all the kinds of things local government provides for us,” said Marshall.

She says in many cases organized crime and terrorists are behind the importation of the counterfeit good because they can use that money to fund their activities.

To avoid being victimized, you should only buy items from reputable merchants avoiding third party retailers—especially ones that offer unbelievable discounts on goods.

The federal government has an online tip line you can use to report someone selling fake goods.

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