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CBP shares top five tips to avoid online scams 

With the end-of-the-year shopping season in full swing, consumers should be aware of the dangers of counterfeit products

WASHINGTON—With the holiday shopping season in full swing, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is cautioning consumers about counterfeit products sold by illegitimate sources over the internet and in underground outlets.

CBP seized over 23.2 million counterfeit items in fiscal year 2023 that, had they been genuine, would have had a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of over $2.8 billion. In Los Angeles Field Office alone, CBP officers and import specialists seized an estimated total manufacturer’s suggested retail price of over $952 million, had the goods been genuine, from October 1, 2022, to the end of August 2023. The most pirated items included wearing apparel, accessories, handbags, wallets, footwear, watches, jewelry, and consumer electronics.

“The rise of e-commerce offers a haven for criminals who are now able to hide behind seemingly legitimate listings on well-known websites, making it difficult to differentiate fakes from the real ones,” said CBP Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner Troy Miller. “In addition, consumers may not be aware that the money they pay often supports criminal activities, such as forced labor or human trafficking.”

This shopping season, CBP is offering the Top Five Tips to protect yourself and your family against online scams:

  1. Price: The most important red flag. Counterfeiters offer their fakes at a 50% to 70% discount to ensure a quick sale – if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. Website: Analyze carefully – look for grammatical errors and misspellings. Look for foreign or suspicious URL and HTTP addresses.
  3. Fake Reviews: Counterfeiters may use false reviews to obtain an unfair advantage over legitimate businesses. E-commerce experts indicate that 30% to 40% of reviews are fabricated or non-genuine.
  4. Customer Service: Make sure the seller has a working U.S. phone number and a legitimate address in the U.S. We advise to contact customer service before making your purchase.
  5. Review CBP’s E-Commerce Counterfeit Awareness Guide for Consumers.


Inferior Quality

Counterfeit apparel, footwear, and handbags are often of inferior quality and may feature poor or uneven stitching, fragile fabrics, and improperly sized or designed logos. Peeling labels, low-quality ink, or printing errors on the packaging are also signs that products may not be legitimate.


Health and Safety

We often think of luxury products like bags or shoes when thinking of counterfeits but there are other categories of fakes that could pose health and safety risks for consumers. These include prohibited COVID-19 related products, pharmaceutical products, personal care products, dangerous toys, electrical extensions, adapters, creams, lotions, make-up, diet pills, aircraft, and auto parts, etc.

“Counterfeits are often produced under unsanitary conditions and through exploitative labor practices, which can ultimately pose serious health and safety risks to consumers,” said CBP Director of Los Angeles Field Operations Cheryl M. Davies. “Detecting, intercepting and seizing dangerous imports is our top priority.”

CBP continued to target and seize illegal imports of counterfeit, unapproved, or otherwise substandard COVID-19 related products that threatened the health and safety of American consumers nationwide in fiscal year 2022 (October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2022). These seizures included 270,135 Food and Drug Administration-prohibited COVID-19 test kits in 60 incidents, over 5.8 million counterfeit face masks in 142 incidents, and 23,653 Food and Drug Administration-prohibited hydroxychloroquine tablets in 95 incidents. 


Not a Victimless Crime

When you purchase a counterfeit you expose your financial information, credit card, bank account numbers, and security codes to criminals. 

In addition, counterfeit activities negatively impact American jobs, as counterfeiters may not pay taxes. This illegal practice also threatens America’s innovation economy by stealing intellectual property from creators and reducing the profits flowing to legitimate businesses that employ the American workforce.


Enforcement Approach

To deter the importation of illicit goods and protect U.S. consumers and businesses, CBP has developed a proactive, aggressive, and dynamic enforcement approach to Intellectual Property Right enforcement.

CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations seized 20,812 shipments containing goods that violated intellectual property rights in fiscal year 2022, which equates to nearly 25 million counterfeit goods.

The total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was over $2.98 billion. In fiscal year 2022, ICE-HSI arrested 255 individuals, obtained 192 indictments, and received 95 convictions related to intellectual property crimes.


Report Fraud

For more information about the risks associated with purchasing counterfeit goods, visit CBP’s Fake Goods, Real Dangers website and read CBP’s e-Commerce Awareness Guide. Additional tips for protecting your family from counterfeit goods are available at Rights holders wishing to protect their brand from infringing imports should record their trademarks and copyrights with CBP at

Suspected intellectual property rights violations, fraud, or illegal trade activity can be reported by contacting CBP through the e-Allegations Online Trade Violations Reporting System or by calling 1-800-BE-ALERT. Violations can also be reported to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at or by telephone at 1-866-IPR-2060.


Follow CBP Office of Trade on X @CBPTradeGov.