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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized a record number of counterfeit goods last year. Many of those goods are flooding into western Pennsylvania.
Federal investigators say counterfeit goods are getting into the United States through some of the biggest e-commerce websites like Amazon, eBay and Walmart.
In a recent investigation, the Government Accountability Office purchased dozens of items from third-party sellers on those sites.
Twenty out of 47 items were found to be counterfeit. Among the items were expensive Yeti mugs that had misspelled words on the bottom, and Urban Decay makeup products. In the case of the cosmetics, all 13 of the products purchased were counterfeit.
“Consumers are at risk and that’s why we say buyer beware,” says Special Agent in Charge, David Abbate with Homeland Security Investigations.
Abbate showed KDKA’s Susan Koeppen confiscated counterfeit goods, which included everything from fake sunglasses and music CDs to toothpaste and brake pads.
According to Abbate, the biggest counterfeit good making its way into western Pennsylvania is fake medication. That included everything from fake Viagra to cancer drugs to pain killers.
“It’s coming in, it’s usually coming from China and it may or may not be what the consumer thinks it is and if you’re ingesting something that you don’t know what it is or against doctor’s orders, it could be very harmful,” said Abbate.
Companies like Apple have sued third-party sellers for hocking counterfeit goods. And, e-commerce websites listed in the recent government report say they have a zero tolerance policy for counterfeit goods and actively work to remove them from their sites.
As for consumers, experts say they need to buy directly from the manufacturer if they want to make sure they buy the real thing.