Customs officials: Beware of counterfeit goods

HOUSTON - Customs agents are warning Houston-area shoppers that counterfeit goods are making their way into the region.

They've seized fake purses, watches and video game consoles headed to Houston stores. The items are made to look real with names like "Happy 360," "Wi-Wi" and "PCP Station."

Agent Tommy Burns with Customs and Border Protection said counterfeit items pose a risk to consumers.

"We see a lot of knockoff items that doesn't meet safety standards or doesn't cover warranties that a consumer would normally think an item would have," said Burns.

The agents displayed a set of Christmas lights that look fine on the outside, but they're missing a fuse in the plug that can help prevent a fire.

"They have incorrect UL markings or they don't meet the standards of merchandise," according to Burns.

The agents also showed what appeared to be an authentic Polo shirt. However, Burns determined, it too, was a fake.

"The buttons on this is what identified it as a counterfeit. Polo doesn't use these buttons on their merchandise."

Fake goods are making their way to Houston mostly from China and Taiwan. Investigators have made more than 100 seizures this year alone in Houston.

"They're trying to fool people, deceive people. What is it? It's theft. Stealing money not only from the consumer but ultimately from the company," said Richard Halverson of the Department of Homeland Security.

So how can you spot a fake? On electronics, look for UL labels. You'll find them on the plug or cord. Check for differences in packaging. A bottle of cologne that was supposed to pass for Armani had an obviously incorrect spelling.

And investigators said to beware of strange websites when shopping online.

"If you're going to a website and you don't recognize the name or if you go to a website and when you go to hit purchase and it bounces you to three other websites, something to be suspicious of," said Halverson.

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