Manager, IP Policy and Programs, Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce
October 27, 2023
This Halloween, Americans are spending more than ever on holiday staples like costumes, decorations, entertainment, and, of course, candy. The National Retail Federation expects spending to hit a record high of $12.2 billion.
If this trend is any indication, there are plenty of fun spooks and scares in store - but consumers must stay vigilant against the real hazards of fake and counterfeit goods.
Monstrous numbers: Every Halloween, law enforcement officers nationwide heighten their surveillance of the counterfeit trade. For example, in 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations New Orleans seized over 33,000 counterfeit items valued at over $8 million during the Halloween shopping season. And unfortunately, the scourge of counterfeit goods isn’t limited to any one holiday. Each year, the counterfeit market costs the global economy $500 billion and 2.5 million jobs. As if these data aren’t scary enough, the human cost is even more alarming.
Costumes that will give you the creeps: Since counterfeit goods - including costume clothing - don’t follow manufacturers’ standards or regulatory testing, they can pose serious health risks. One study found that counterfeit fashion goods contain dangerous levels of chemicals and heavy metals, with 36% of products tested failing to comply with U.S. safety standards. Counterfeit clothing can also help fuel criminal activity. While the profits from authentic sports jerseys might support team operating costs, community philanthropy, and even scholarships for future athletes, fake sports jerseys have been found to support terrorism, human trafficking, and child labor.
Killer makeup: Like counterfeit clothing, counterfeit cosmetics are a frightful business, with products often containing bleach, lead, mercury, and other harmful ingredients. One Halloween, consumer Victoria Eaton purchased fake novelty red body paint that caused severe burning and blistering on her skin, landing her in the hospital. Consumer Tia Goode’s counterfeit cat-eye contact lenses ripped off her cornea, leaving her in unbearable pain.
Streams that will make you scream: Halloween’s counterfeit horrors transcend the physical into the digital realm, particularly when watching your favorite scary movies. Digital piracy - or the illegal copying or distribution of copyrighted material online - robs creators of their hard-earned rewards and recognition. It also exposes consumers to potential security risks, like identity theft, spyware, and malware.
Don’t get tricked: Instead, treat yourself to a lesson in avoiding the counterfeit trade. These five tips can ensure you #ShopSmart this Halloween.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 low prices and easy access, counterfeit products and pirated entertainment are dangers in disguise. This Halloween, take the right measures, so you don’t end up getting tricked.