Electronic items are now the number one category of knockoffs seized by agents at O'Hare International Airport, federal officials say. And some of it isn't just fake, it's potentially dangerous.
Among the bevy of fashions -- handbags, sunglasses and shoes -- are other items such as batteries, headphones and telephones.
"It can look very similar the actual, authentic product but be much different internally and therefore, potentially, be much dangerous," said John Drengenberg, Consumer Safety Director at Underwriters Laboratories in suburban Northbrook.
Brand-name manufacturers spend millions of dollars to have their products safety-tested and certified with the famous "UL" label. But even those labels were forged and placed on phony smoke detectors that were given out in Atlanta up until last year.
Experts caution that counterfeit electronics rarely perform as advertised and can be dangerous. Consumers aren't likely to run into the products at a prominent retailer, but auctions and online merchants can be a different story.
'Counterfeiters want to make a quick buck, and consumers are looking for bargains," said Drengenberg. "No matter what you pay for it, you’re probably paying more than what it is really worth."
Every piece of mail coming into Chicago from overseas is scanned by Customs and Border Protection Agents at a sprawling postal facility near the airport's southeast runway. Day in and day out, agents screen packages, some of them containing potentially life-threatening counterfeit drugs.