HOUSTON -- Spotting a real product from a fake one has more implications than paying more money for lousy quality.
It's illegal, bad for the economy and most importantly, a threat to consumers' health and safety, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
CBP officials are now educating travelers boarding international flights on how they can avoid buying counterfeit items.
"These goods can actually cause you physical harm. Things like makeup, you don't know what chemicals are in them. They're not your usual FDA-approved ingredients," CBP international trade specialist Rob Alleman said.
In the fiscal year of 2017, customs authorities seized more than 34,000 shipments carrying fake goods-- an 8% increase over the previous year and an estimated loss of more than $1.2 billion had the products been genuine!
"Things like electronic goods, you think 'I just got a really cheap phone charger!' Well, those phone chargers have actually caught on fire and burnt people's houses down," Alleman said.
Customs officials said the best way to avoid buying counterfeit goods is to buy only from reputable sources.