Can $5 Contact Lenses Ruin Halloween?

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The final touch to a top-notch Halloween costume could be contact lenses that change eye color or provide some special effect like a cat-eye-shaped iris. While such lenses can be purchased cheaply, their cost can be much higher.

Any seller of contact lenses, even if just for cosmetic purposes, must have a prescription from an ophthalmologist or an optometrist before selling the lenses to a consumer. In fact, it is illegal to sell contact lenses without a prescription.

That doesn’t stop a lot of vendors from trying. Consumer watchdog The Counterfeit Report has posted two examples of Halloween contact lenses for sale at Amazon and eBay. The lenses cost as little as $5.99.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday issued its annual warning to consumers against buying cosmetic contact lenses without a prescription. The agency notes that contacts that don’t fit correctly “can have serious consequences, including conjunctivitis (pink eye), scratches and sores on the cornea. Even blindness.”

The Counterfeit Report cites Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge Tim Meadows who warns that the cosmetic lenses are “made in China and contain bacteria and can be contaminated with lead and other toxins.”

While Amazon, eBay and Alibaba have rules limiting the sale of contact lenses to pre-authorized sellers, none apparently has taken on the responsibility for shutting down vendors who flout the rules and sell what are called cosmetic or fashion or Halloween lenses but that are in fact fake contact lenses.

Selling fake items, according to The Counterfeit Report, can lead to a charge of trafficking in counterfeit goods and trademark piracy and carry federal prison terms of up to 10 years upon conviction for each violation.

24/7 Wall St. has ranked how obsessed each state is with Halloween. Also check out the list of the 10 most counterfeited products in America.