Counterfeit NFL gear ramps up before Super Bowl in Arizona

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security says officials seized roughly 268,000 fake sports-related items.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 1:52 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2023 at 5:00 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Although counterfeit merchandise isn’t a new thing, the amount of them seems to ramp up around big events like the Super Bowl. On Your Side’s Susan Campbell met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to find out what to look for and why some prices are too good to be true.

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security says officials seized roughly 268,000 fake sports-related items. Investigators are watching for more counterfeit geat to land in Arizona ahead of the Super Bowl. “We basically target all merchandise coming into the country, looking for high-risk shipments. It’s not as easy as you would think because they’re not going to label the shipment as jerseys,” said Guadalupe Ramirez with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Ramirez says counterfeit goods are common across the country. “Sky Harbor, Miami, JFK, LAX, Long Beach, anywhere you have an international port, airport, seaport, landport, they’re coming in. So it’s coming from all over,” he said.

With the Eagles and Chiefs set to square off in Super Bowl LVII, law enforcement is watching for fakes targeting fans. “We have a lot of individuals unfortunately that are taking advantage of fan enthusiasm. They’re looking to make a quick buck, and they’re trying to rip off people,” said Ramirez.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confiscated a slew of counterfeit NFL merchandise by first identifying what they call "high risk" shipments.

So what should fans be on the lookout for? “If the quality of the material doesn’t feel correct, if the stitching, something that might seem obvious. You might not have a legitimate product here,” Ramirez explained. The cost of the merchandise will also be a red flag. If it’s cheaper than you’d expect, it’s most likely a fake.

Selling counterfeit merchandise may seem harmless, but it’s not a victimless crime. “What does that mean to the businesses, what does that mean to the people that aren’t getting the jobs that they would have if the money was actually going through the proper system. As wells as taxes being paid; that’s one part that gets overlooked a lot, but that has an impact on our schools, on our roads, and our community,” said Ramirez.

However, new technology is being used to catch fakes. Mobile X-Ray scanning technology will be at the stadium for an extra layer of protection during the big game. “During the Super Bowl, you’ll see a lot more of these semi trucks vans and cars coming in to conduct business ofr the event and day of the event. And we’re just there to help as a layer of security to ensure what’s supposed to be coming into the stadium is coming into the stadium,” said Christopher Larkins with Homeland Security Investigations.