With Halloween coming up, Homeland Security Investigations is raising awareness on counterfeit items for consumers who buy them to complete their costumes. News Center 23’s Jose Saenz tells us which items are the most dangerous and the consequences consumers are paying.
Finding or making a unique and cheap Halloween costume is what everybody wants this time of the year, but some people go as far as purchasing counterfeit items to complete their costumes, which can turn expensive at the end.
Officials from Homeland Security Investigations are warning consumers about purchasing decorative contact lenses and make up from places such as the flea market, since they’ll most likely be counterfeit and can be harmful to your health. They say, an optometrist is your safest bet when it comes down to contact lenses.
Eddie Hurtado, Supervisory Special Agent said, “The alternative is your health. You either go to a doctor, an optometrist to get these, or you risk your health. The stuff that we’re finding in the solution is bacteria, iron and all kinds of other stuff that’s not too good for you, or not healthy. It can cause infections to your eyes and more.”
Other than affecting the health of consumers, these and other counterfeit items are also having a negative impact in the local economy.
Agent Hurtado says, “You have to think of it this way. The folks that are doing it the right way, the doctors, our local doctors, our community health professionals, they’re going the right way, getting the licenses and getting the correct documentation to prescribe these. And the people that are out there selling these not up to standard items, they’re stealing from them, and hurting the economy globally.”
Most of these counterfeit items come from third world countries, but when they get to the U.S., Homeland Security Investigations will conduct undercover operations at flea markets or other places where these items are sold.
Agent Hurtado, “We’re targeting the big criminal organizations. That are using this form of money laundering. These are the people that we target. Now if you buy these items as an individual in the community, you’re subjecting yourself to potential civil liability, but at the end of the day we’re targeting the big organizations that making millions of dollars importing this stuff.”
Last year Homeland Security Investigations seized over one thousand counterfeit items valued between $800,000 and $1 million dollars.
If you see or know of any suspicious activity related counterfeit items, you can call the number at the bottom of your screen or contact your local police department.