Sydney Redden Sydney Redden
Senior Manager, IP Enforcement, Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce


July 24, 2023


Before the first bell of the new school year rings, students, teachers, and families are on the hunt for great deals for back-to-school essentials—but so are counterfeiters looking for their next target.  

Each year law enforcement intercepts billions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit products, some of which are popular back-to-school items. Yet, despite their best efforts, fake goods slip through, endangering unsuspecting consumers and posing serious threats to the global economy. 

Too big to ignore: Valued at $500 billion, the counterfeit market costs the global economy 2.5 million jobs lost each year. In August 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intercepted 17,000 counterfeit items worth $2.4 billion. This nefarious trade harms consumers and businesses of all sizes and supports human rights abuses such as terrorism and child labor.

  • $2.4B
    In August 2022, CBP intercepted 17,000 counterfeit items worth $2.4 billion.
  • 2.5M
    The counterfeit market costs the global economy 2.5 million jobs lost each year.

Fake goods, real dangers

Since counterfeit goods don't follow manufacturers' standards or regulatory testing, they can pose serious health risks. They may include exploding electronics, faulty bike helmets, toys with hidden choking hazards, or everyday items like clothes and backpacks laden with harmful chemicals. 

Losing your lunch money

Counterfeit goods jeopardize your financial health, too. Although most counterfeit goods won't cost you much at the point of purchase, they can have a long-lasting monetary impact. That's because many counterfeiters use their storefronts as a guise to steal credit card information and passwords to important online accounts, like online banking and email.  

Fighting fakes is a group project

The businesses community and law enforcement are joining forces in the fight against fakes. This school year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Amazon are getting the word out on how consumers can protect themselves—and each other—with five tips to avoid getting scammed when shopping for back-to-school. 

  1. Trust Your Instincts: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. So, if a deal or product seems off, it's best to keep away.   
  2. Prioritize Secure Payments: When shopping online, only buy from sites that begin with https:// — the 's' stands for secure. Also, check for a lock symbol in your browser to confirm the site's safety.   
  3. Examine Every Detail: Pay close attention to labels, packaging, and contents. Watch out for out-of-date perishable items, broken or missing safety seals, missing warranty information, or unusual packaging. These could all be signs of fake goods.   
  4. Protect Your Data: Keep all your devices, including computers and smartphones, updated with the latest cybersecurity protections to fend off any potential cyber threats. Stay alert to suspicious websites that could conceal harmful software.   
  5. Say something: Spread awareness among your friends, family, and coworkers about counterfeit goods. If you encounter a fake good, report it to CBP or the National IPR Center. Your actions can make shopping safer and smarter for all.  

Bottom line: Despite luring shoppers with promises of low prices, counterfeit products don’t make the grade. This back-to-school season, study up so you don’t have to learn this lesson the hard way. 

About the authors

Sydney Redden

Sydney Redden

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