Every year, more than 275 million containers enter the United States by boat, truck, rail, and air. Last year, U.S. law enforcement agencies seized a total of 31,560 shipments containing counterfeit goods, an increase from 28,865 the year prior.
To determine the most counterfeited products entering the United States, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed seizure data from the Department of Homeland Security. With 6,406 shipments seized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2016, apparel and accessories are the most confiscated counterfeited items in the country.
The prevalence of counterfeit goods devalues the brands they imitate and hurts retailers. According to to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, lost profits due to counterfeiting has resulted in the loss of more than 750,000 jobs in the United States. The total market value of the 2016 seized counterfeit goods, had they been genuine, amounted to $1.4 billion.
Counterfeiting has consequences beyond lost sales of genuine products. In a correspondence with 24/7 Wall St., CBP public affairs specialist Katrina Skinner wrote “Theft of intellectual property threatens America’s innovation-based economic vitality, business competitiveness, the livelihood of workers, consumer safety, and national security. Trade in counterfeit goods funds criminal enterprises.”
One of the largest threats posed by counterfeit goods is consumer safety. Fake medicine, for example, often contains the wrong dosage of a certain ingredient or lacks a key ingredient altogether. Consumers who purchase counterfeit pharmaceutical products are at risk of being treated incorrectly, of overdose, and even death. U.S. law enforcement seized 2,401 shipments of counterfeit pharmaceutical and personal care goods in 2016, the sixth most of any product category.
While the U.S. Food and Drug administration estimates that less than 1% of all drugs in developed countries are fake, counterfeit pharmaceutical products pose a serious danger in the developing world, where certain life-threatening diseases are more prevalent and the authenticity of drugs is all the more important.
But it is not just fake pharmaceuticals that pose a serious risk to consumers. Any product that does not meet federal safety standards or is manufactured with low quality materials can pose a danger to consumers. Counterfeit consumer electronics made with lithium batteries have been known to explode or catch fire.
In December 2016, the CBP launched Operation Surge Protector, an initiative focusing on the seizure of fake consumer electronics subject to overheating and igniting. Counterfeit hoverboards, for example, have been known to randomly catch fire. The CBP seized 108,122 counterfeit hoverboards containing 32,624 illegal batteries in 2016. These hoverboards would be worth $46.4 million had they been genuine.
The number of shipments of certain products seized at the border can vary by hundreds and even thousands from year to year. As Skinner wrote, “Demand by consumers for particular goods drives the import of goods into the United States. Counterfeiters take advantage of this demand.” As consumer tastes and preferences change, so does the flow of fake goods into the country.
Nearly 90% of seized counterfeit goods originate in China or Hong Kong. According to the Department of Defense, the infiltration of foreign-made counterfeit electronics poses a national security threat. For example, it was revealed in 2011 that mission computers of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s anti-ballistic missile defense and aircraft systems contained over 80,000 counterfeit devices from China. The fake products could have resulted in a total system failure or security breach.
To determine America’s most counterfeited items, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on shipments seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in fiscal 2016. The ranking is based on the number of shipments seized. The CBP tracks annual seizure of products that infringe on U.S. trademarks and copyrights or are unlawful based on exclusion orders from the United States International Trade Commission. These products make up the 10 largest shares of total seizures. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of these counterfeit products — their total value had they been genuine — also came from the Department of Homeland Security.
These are the 10 most counterfeited products in America.