TAMPA, Fla. — The Super Bowl may be over, but the work to tally up counterfeit merchandise continues this week.
Homeland Security Investigations said they seized nearly 22,000 counterfeit items from dozens of locations.
There was about $70 million worth of it seized in the Tampa Bay area since Oct. 1st, with about $60 million of it over the last two weeks. There was about $40 million worth of merchandise seized at ports of entry across the country.
“Now we’re looking at where did these counterfeit items come from, who made money, we’re following both the money, we’re following the trail of all the evidence we have to identify the sources of supply, the networks, the organizations that we’re responsible for bringing these counterfeit items here,” said Kevin Sibley, the acting special agent in charge for HSI Tampa. “And then we’re trying to make it harder for them next time so the next Super Bowl it’s a little bit harder for the counterfeiters to really take advantage of the public.”
While they found items they would normally expect, like jerseys, hats and T-shirts, Sibley said they also found face masks with unauthorized NFL logos, high end jewelry and even a couple of counterfeit Lombardi trophies.
“It’s not quite as large as the original. We were fortunate to actually be able to compare it to the actual Lombardi trophy it’s not quite as nice as the Tiffany made version,” Sibley said.
HSI agents were also on the look out for counterfeit tickets, but Sibley said they saw a dramatic decrease in the amount. He believes it was due to additional security measures the NFL put in place with electronic tickets.
“We did find a few counterfeit tickets as well as through pro-active investigations we were doing and operations up unto and including game day where people were trying to sell tickets online 5:53 and so we have eight active investigations right now related to counterfeit tickets,” he said.
While the excitement continues, there are things you can look out for to make sure your purchases are legitimate. Flags may be if the stitching doesn’t go all the way around the collar, if numbers are falling off, if the fabric doesn’t feel right, if the price doesn’t seem right or if it’s not a reputable retailer.
But Sibley said their biggest concern is health and safety, so reminds people there are still COVID-19 related threat including counterfeit N95 masks, websites promising cure-alls and people trying to get a vaccine through illicit means.
“Our message to consumers is be careful what you’re buying be careful who you’re giving your information to financial fraud schemes or out there, anytime you give your credit information to somebody you don’t know what they’re going to do with it,” he said.