Just as stores and Web sites that sell knockoff designer clothes and accessories were gearing up for their holiday rush, so too were investigators and agents, reports USA Today. Raids hit 41 stores, flea markets and warehouses in the U.S. and Mexico for six days beginning Dec. 8, confiscating $26 million in counterfeit goods, ranging from fake fashions to pharmaceuticals. Counterfeiting “is a multibillion-dollar industry, a global crime and a serious threat,” says Marcy Forman of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.
Apparel-related counterfeiting doesn’t get the same attention as counterfeit toothpaste, batteries, or Christmas lights because no one dies or gets physically hurt from knockoffs of pricey jeans, purses and belts. Still, arguments that the phony products are made without safety standards – often using child labor and sold by people connected to terrorist activity or organized crime – are starting to gain traction. In fiscal 2009, nearly 80 percent of counterfeit goods seized came from China. Shoes were the biggest category, making up 38 percent of merchandise seized. While many consumers exacerbate the problem by buying phony goods, companies are getting more cooperation than ever from state and federal law enforcement.