NORTH CAROLINA — Designer labels at a discount might seem like a bargain, but criminals are making big bucks off ripping people off and counterfeits often mask toxic dangers.
In August 2019, authorities raided a Chapel Hill church and arrested Pastor Frank Lan for having thousands of counterfeit Cartier bracelets. Officials said this one case was over $50 million.
The bust came from Secretary of State Elaine Marshall’s Office. She gave Eyewitness News anchor Genevieve Curtis a firsthand look at some of the seized merchandise such as Gucci, Apple products, Beats, Jordans and Yetis.
Many of these fakes can come with very real dangers such as phony electronics can pose fire risk.
“It is harder to detect some counterfeits,” Marshall said. "It’s just bad, bad, bad from every angle.
Marshall said her office has seen a charred cord, which was a counterfeit with a “Underwriters Laboratory” certification, a fake perfume that contains bacteria from animal urine and counterfeit contact lenses causing blindness.
Now, a new troubling product on the market is counterfeit Juul pods. The state recently seized a truck full of counterfeit pods and they had three times the nicotine.
“You can see amber color in the liquid,” Marshall said. “It’s just very, very risky.”
Fake prescription medications are another major concern such as fake Viagra and Cialis. Marshall said in order to make the pills yellow, counterfeiters use highway paint, which is one of the most toxic lead-based paints.
Can you spot the counterfeit in the photo below?
Answer: Marshall said it’s a trick question and that all of them are fakes and have been seized by her office. Apple does not make colored charging cubes. She said people don’t know what kind of electric wiring will be inside these cubes.
Counterfeiters are even knocking off day-to-day items like toothpaste. Marshall said consumers have no way of knowing what they are putting in their bodies.
Many of the items were seized at flea markets, mall kiosks, local shops, online stores and sporting events. At the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte last February, the task force seized $100,000 worth of fake merchandise.
Getting a fake Rolex or designer bag may seem harmless, but officials said the industry fuels child labor, human trafficking, organized crime and terrorism.
Marshall said it is on all of us to be better consumers.
“No, no way is it a victimless crime. We are just feeding into the bad guys,” Marshall said. “You should not be buying or able to buy prescription contact lenses at a nail salon or convenient store. Gucci, Cartier, all those kinds of places at a flea market? It’s sloppy.”
Think about where you are buying items and check labels. Make sure to look for misspellings and foreign languages, which are good giveaways. Looking for these clues can help you save more than just a few bucks.
“You need to be skeptical,” Marshall said. “There is a real reason why we have these regulations and it’s to protect people.”
Marshall said counterfeiters are getting better everyday. Many websites are cloned or fake and will target you based on your social media activity or shopping habits.
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