Detailed Findings & Methodology:
Officials say that buying counterfeit items harms more than just the company whose products are imitated. The money from counterfeiting may fund much more serious crimes. Kevin Corsaro from the CBP Office of Field Operations said in a CBP informational video “The money that is made by counterfeiting is used to launder drugs, weapons, and a whole host of illegal activities.”
Most counterfeit items seized while entering the United States come from Asia. Some 87% of seized counterfeit items came from China or Hong Kong. This data represents only where the goods were shipped from, not necessarily where they were made. But it is likely most of them came from China. The country leads the world in producing fake goods, accounting for over 60% of all counterfeit items globally.
There are several reasons for this. China is already a manufacturing hub, so it has people experienced in making products, from clothing to electronics. China’s federal government has increased its efforts to prevent intellectual property infringement, with limited effect. As one of the largest countries in the world, it is nearly impossible to crack down on all counterfeiters, especially when political corruption in some areas make officials less inclined to do so.
There were more seizures of apparel and accessories than any other type of item. The 5,223 apparel and accessory seizures represented over 15% of total seizures. Counterfeit watches and jewelry were by far the most valuable items — or at least they were knockoffs of the most valuable items. Had the seized watches and jewelry been genuine, they would have been worth over $460 million, or more than 38% of the value of all seized items in the 2017 fiscal year.
This list is not all encompassing. Some 15% of seized shipments either did not fit into any CBP category or contained items that fit into multiple categories. Those shipments fell under the miscellaneous label “All others.” It is also important to note that there is no way to know exactly how much counterfeit merchandise made it into the United States.
Counterfeit labels and tags were one of the most valuable items seized that were sorted into the “all others” category. These labels would have been used to add legitimacy to counterfeit clothing and accessories had they made it into the country. Those labels would have been worth nearly $81 million had they been genuine.
The CBP reported that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigation officials working to protect intellectual property rights made 457 arrests related to counterfeiting. Those arrests led to 288 indictments and 242 convictions.
Kevin Corsaro of the CBP Office of Field Operations said that buyers can typically avoid buying counterfeits by “knowing what the genuine article typically costs. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Consumers can also avoid buying fakes by checking what the product looks like as well as its quality to ensure it meets the company’s standards. They can help insulate themselves from fraudulent products by buying from reputable retailers and avoiding suspicious internet merchants.
In order to determine America’s most counterfeited items, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. Items were ranked based on the number of total seizures made in fiscal year 2017. Market values also came from CBP, which determined the value of the counterfeit goods based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the goods the counterfeit items were made to imitate.