MIAMI –– Ahead of this year’s big game in Miami, criminals are aiming to line their pockets with money from desperate fans looking for a great bargain on deals that are too good to be true, authorities said.
“These are fraudulent goods that are coming into the country. This could include jerseys, rings, you name it, anything associated with the Super Bowl. There are trademark infringements and criminal organizations thrive on these items being sold," said Michael Silva, the Customs and Border Protection public affairs liaison.
Federal agents say they are increasing their searches and seizures this year ahead of Super Bowl LIV. They are using high-end security technology, intercepting all sorts of goods before they even reach the stadium.
One of the tools they are using are called VACIS trucks. These trucks X-ray every single item that comes into the stadium. VACIS systems scan cargo containers and any vehicles to help authorities search for nuclear material, weapons, narcotics and goods at all checkpoints.
“We're going to have three of our VACIS XML mobile X-ray units for use at the Super Bowl, and they are completely electrically generated. We want our officers and the people around the general area to be safe and we're going to be using those throughout the week leading up to the Super Bowl,” Chief Gary Nellis, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent said.
Zachary Mann, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman, said fake goods are dangerous.
“Counterfeiting is not just some cheap trinket that you buy, it has a huge impact to the economy and revenue of the United States," he said. "When you copy a product that's made in the United States, you're potentially taking away the profitability of a company, which in turn means jobs are lost, and communities are impacted negatively by the loss of those jobs.”
From 2018 to 2019, Customs and Border Protection agents say they seized almost 285,000 varieties of fake sports-related gear, worth roughly $24 million. They have seen everything from jerseys to even knockoff super bowl rings. Some of their recent seizures happened in Philadelphia and Memphis, where packages shipped from China were headed for various addresses across the states.
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection seizes over $3.7 million of counterfeit merchandise every day. The bigger picture with counterfeit merchandise is that the proceeds, the profits generated from selling counterfeit goods, goes towards other criminal activities, drug smuggling, human trafficking, sex trafficking and it has a huge impact on the economy of the United States,” Mann said.
Authorities warn the public of key things to look for when making a purchase. Things like misspellings, bad quality or missing tags are all indicators of whether you're buying a fake.