Every year around the time of the Super Bowl, the amount of counterfeit sports merchandise explodes. As sports gear pirates get more sophisticated, multiple federal agencies step up their efforts to protect the public from phony memorabilia.
Nearly $100 Million in Counterfeit Sports Products Seized
In 2022, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of Homeland Security Investigations, seized almost $100 million in counterfeit sports products. This amounted to approximately 268,000 counterfeit sports products.
As part of its anti-piracy operations, the agency monitors all merchandise entering the country through international ports and looks for high-risk shipments. Pirated goods can come from all over, by air, land or sea.
Efforts to Warn Public of Counterfeit Sports Gear
Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection work directly with the NFL and local law enforcement to stem the flow of bogus gear and warn fans about what to be on the lookout for to ensure they’re getting official merchandise.
What should fans be looking for? They should pay attention to material and stitching quality, as well as price. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. Also, official NFL merchandise should have a hologram on the label, with a red, white and blue shield and brown football. And authorities say, if you buy online, you’re taking an added risk that the product may not be genuine, in addition to the risk of identity theft and stolen credit card data.
Risks of Counterfeit Merchandise
In addition to counterfeit items sometimes being manufactured using toxic chemicals, it is against the law to sell and buy bogus sports merchandise. It also hurts the trademark or copyright holder as well as the U.S. economy and local communities since pirates don’t pay taxes. Overseas counterfeiters also steal jobs away from Americans.
Scanning to Detect Counterfeits
Mobile X-Ray scanners in vans are being used to check merchandise and flag counterfeits. Shipments, including sports memorabilia, can be checked at airports and at the stadium by customs officials to ensure that only official merchandise is permitted.