Hazardous Counterfeit Products

When U.S. customs agents recently seized a shipment of counterfeit extension cords they saw knock-offs in a whole new light.

"There are very real safety risks involved," says Mike Garcia of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Injuries from overheating counterfeit cell phone batteries purchased right on Verizon store shelves sparked a recall this week by the consumer product safety commission.

"We know of at least one apartment fire that's occurred," says Hal Stratton, with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. "We know of at least one burn situation on someone's face that's occurred."

The consumer just didn't know the difference, and apparently, neither did the company.

While that Louis Vuitton knock-off may seem like a steal, CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta reports counterfeit trade is bringing a growing number of dangerous products into American homes, from electronics to cosmetics.

It may also be worth checking under the hood. The auto industry has found enough counterfeit parts to build a whole car, including brakes made of compressed grass and wood sold in American stores.

The parts, from belts to hoses and windshield wipers, look so real that trained mechanics have installed them.

"The counterfeiters, because of the profit motive, have gotten better and better at leaking these things into what we would all think of as legitimate distribution channels," says Brian Duggan of the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association.

That's why cases like the one in China, where fake baby formula recently killed 60 infants, have investigators stepping up enforcement at U.S. ports. This month, customs agents charged members of an alleged counterfeiting ring with smuggling a half-billion dollars in Chinese knock-offs in just ten months.

"It's an incredibly lucrative business," says Mike Garcia of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "It's seen as being an area where there's lax enforcement, lower penalties than narcotics smuggling."

Hooked on bargain shopping, consumers may think they're getting a cheap thrill from buying knock-offs.

But the price of some counterfeits could be much higher than others.
  • Jaime Holguin

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