Gifts that seem like a steal could be counterfeit.
Customs and Border Protection sees it every day: knock-offs that closely resemble the real thing. But instead, consumers are receiving products that are poor quality or even unsafe.
By air and sea, anything shipped to consumers first has to pass through Customs and Border Protection.
Officers review manifests and invoices, and if anything is off, that shipment is sent to a centralized exam station.
Officers seized more than 26,000 shipments of counterfeit goods last year valued at over $1.3 billion.
"Even though this packaging looks amazing, we still don’t know the ingredients inside," Shane Smith with Customs and Border Protection said. "If they’re being produced somewhere where the supply chain isn’t as secure and the ingredients are subpar or unknown, it poses a health and safety issue for the average consumer putting it on their lip."
Manufacturers provide product guides and contacts, helping officers identify the knock-offs.
Smith says counterfeiters are crafty: they learn the tells and try to get around them.
Counterfeiters have become so sophisticated they're able to replicate the exact same packaging, even surpass certain security features
"But again you have to think about the livelihoods of the American people, the employees of these companies and we have to protect our economy and have consumer confidence in what we’re buying," Smith said.
He added that sending money to counterfeiters could be funding illegal activities, and cutting corners with safety regulations can cause harm to your health, home or kids.
"If it’s a choking hazard for a kid, that’s an issue then it can be seized or destroyed and not allowed for import," he said.
CBP has teamed up with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to identify hazardous toys and test for different metals and chemicals
The top counterfeit products seized by CBP are handbags and wallets, clothes, footwear, jewelry and electronics.
CBP is also warning consumers about counterfeit pharmaceuticals and have seen a rise in counterfeit COVID tests, face masks and COVID treatments.
Big scanners and K-9s help with the volume of shipments, but it's up to the shoppers to make sure they're buying from reputable retailers. Consumers can also report suspected counterfeiters to CBP.