Warning to avoid counterfeit goods this holiday shopping season

NEW YORK (WABC) -- It can be nearly impossible to spot the differences between real and counterfeit goods, and dozens of products were on display at John F. Kennedy International Airport Tuesday as part of a warning to customers days before the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

There is no shortage of cargo moving into and around the entire country over the next few weeks, but authorities from both Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are trying to "keep it real." From toys to watches and purses to prescription drugs, the fakes are not so fabulous.

"We found traces of horse urine in some of these perfumes," HSI special agent in charge Angel Melendez said.

So don't skimp on perfume as a holiday gift. Then, there's counterfeit DVDs that might not work, and obvious choking hazards that come with no warnings but may contain lead. The bottom line, authorities say, is that some fakes have actually made it through to major retailers these days.

Shoppers are advised to be careful, not buy off the street and check online for a product's approved retailers.

According to Homeland Security, over the past fiscal year, more than 31,000 items were seized across our country worth about $1.3 billion. At least $450 million of that is here in the New York area.

Experts also say there is a huge demand for counterfeit drugs, with one type in particular.

"This is practically 37 percent of all counterfeit materials that are seized, erectile dysfunction medication," Melendez said. "In the most serious cases, these pills can actually cause death."

And even if you survive, you still might not be getting what you bargained for.

(Sot Bob Perez/Customs and border Protection) "So we have found traces of harmful chemicals, to chemicals that will literally do nothing for you," said Bob Perez, with US Customs and Border Protection.

So if you think shopping for fakes is part of your New York experience this holiday season, what you're saving today can cost jobs and certainly a whole lot more.

For tips on how to avoid counterfeits, visit IPRCenter.gov and StopFakes.gov.
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