(CBS Tampa) - The Department of Homeland Security Investigations is increasing its efforts this week to find vendors selling counterfeit Super Bowl merchandise. Last year the department seized $123 million worth of counterfeit sports items.
Officials with the Department of Homeland Security Investigations says most counterfeit products, like t-shirts, will be made of low quality material and will look like the design was ironed on. Brian Weinhaus with DHS says, "If something seems like too good of a deal, it probably is."
Weinhaus explains when it comes to Super Bowl clothing, some may look like they are sold by the NFL, but are not. "The real legitimate products are going to use a higher quality level of production," and there's several ways to tell is a shirt is legitimate. "The tags. They always have this hologram on them when they are legitimate products from the NFL. You're able to see things like a serial number, that is particular to each item. There's also, as you move the tag, the footballs in the background actually change color."
Weinhaus points out another way to tell if it's not a licensed product. "On the legitimate product, it's going to be fine-detailed where the letters are disconnected and each is on their own, but on these fake ones, you can see the letters are connected and the lines go across."
It's not about about forcing fans to pay more, Weinhaus says counterfeit items can also cause economic issues. "The mom and pop stores, people who are legitimately selling products, they are losing this revenue, you're losing things towards opportunities like loss of jobs, loss of tax revenue," to name a few key points.
So over the couple weeks, the Department of Homeland Security Investigations and local Tampa Bay Area law enforcement will be increasing their efforts to make sure citizens are not being tricked into buying fake sporting products. "We're going to places like flea markets and store fronts and vendors on the street and taking a look to see what they have, and trying to identify what's real and what's fake," said Weinhaus.
If you suspect someone is selling counterfeit sports related products in the Tampa Bay Area, you can contact your local Homeland Security Investigations office.
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