The Christmas shopping season has begun and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is launching a new Christmas shopping toolkit to help consumers protect themselves from substandard or even dangerous counterfeit toys, electronics, cosmetics, and other products.
The Christmas Shopping Toolkit contains rules of conduct for online shopping, ways to protect financial and banking data, instructional videos and infographics, and general information on how to identify counterfeit goods.
“For most, the holidays are a season of goodwill and giving, but for criminals, it’s the time of year to attract unsuspecting Christmas shoppers,” said Matt Allen, director of the IPR center. “One of the most important principles of crime prevention is education, and this vacation guide ensures that consumers get expert advice on how to protect their personal financial information and avoid buying gifts that can be harmful to loved ones.”
The IPR Center’s Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and The Toy Association partners work together to ensure that consumers can make informed decisions as they find the best deals this season .
“Criminals don’t take the holidays off, so it’s important that consumers know how to protect themselves during this busy season,” said Carlton Peeples, assistant deputy director of the FBI’s crime department. “The FBI works year round with our law enforcement and private sector partners at the IPR Center to combat the sale of counterfeit goods, which threaten public health and safety and which are costly to the US economy. Anyone can help identify and thwart counterfeiters, and this year we are encouraging the public to use our Christmas shopping toolkit to avoid becoming the next victim of a scammer. “
What is the risk of buying counterfeit products? Counterfeit electronics can overheat and explode, bicycle helmets can break on impact, fake cosmetic and health products can be made with dangerous or unsanitary ingredients that shouldn’t be applied to the skin, and seasonal household items like Christmas lights can be poorly wired and ignite fires.
Not only do counterfeit goods deceive consumers with substandard and potentially dangerous products, but the websites they use can also expose buyers to the risk of their personal and financial information being stolen for other nefarious purposes. Online shopping is particularly susceptible to scams that lure the user into buying counterfeit and pirated goods.
“When it comes to counterfeit toys, there are significant safety concerns,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Toy Association. “Counterfeit and counterfeit toys sold by untrustworthy sellers are very unlikely to meet stringent toy safety laws designed to protect children playing. These counterfeit, non-compliant products may contain small parts that can break off, are not age-matched, or pose other risks to children. When shopping online, families must carefully examine the offers and only shop with reputable sellers and well-known brands whose legitimate toys meet more than 100 different legally required safety standards and tests. “
Among the tips that the IPR Center gives for Christmas shopping:
- Only buy goods from reputable retailers and be careful with third party sellers.
- Read product reviews on websites and research companies you are unfamiliar with.
- Check seller ratings and make sure there is a working phone number and address for the seller in case you have any questions about a product’s legitimacy.
- If a business seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do not buy expensive items from third party websites.
- Use the security functions. Passwords and other security tools provide additional levels of protection when used appropriately.
- Check your statements. Keep your purchases and copies of the confirmation pages and compare them with your bank statements. Report any discrepancies immediately.
Sold online and in stores, counterfeit goods harm the US economy, cost Americans their jobs, threaten consumer health and safety, and fund criminal activity. Every year the US government confiscates billions of dollars of counterfeit goods from countries around the world as part of its mission to protect US businesses and the health and safety of consumers.
“Counterfeit goods pose a real threat to your health and safety and threaten the US economy,” said AnnMarie Highsmith, Executive Assistant Commissioner of the CBP Trade Bureau. “Between October 1, 2020 and July this year, CBP made 22,849 seizures valued at US $ 2.5 billion. That’s $ 2.5 billion in legitimate revenue taken from the pockets of law-abiding American corporations to fill the pockets of criminals and criminal organizations. “
The IPR Center, working with its 27 public and private sector partners, is at the forefront of the US government’s response to the fight against global intellectual property theft and enforcement of intellectual property rights violations. Established to combat intellectual property theft around the world, the IPR Center plays an important role in monitoring the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods on websites, social media and the dark web.
These efforts protect US industry, the US consumer, and the safety of the American public from the negative economic effects and health threats posed by counterfeit products being introduced into US trade. Intellectual property rights violations can be reported to the IPR Center at www.iprcenter.gov.
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