December 24, 2015

This Year’s Must Have Gift Is … A Fake?

Like the crowds in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, waiting in line at the last minute to finish all your shopping is a tradition many would like to avoid.

However, recently it has become more than just the crowds that are causing fear for shoppers.

One of the most popular gifts of the 2015 shopping season – personal hoverboards – have been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Just recently, nearly 450 counterfeit hoverboards were seized at the Norfolk, Virginia Port while being shipped into the United States for sale. These hoverboards were seized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) because they displayed counterfeit trademarks and contained unsafe counterfeit batteries.  This development came shortly after reports started surfacing of hoverboards bursting into flames posing a serious public safety risk.

As CBP Commisioner Gil Kerlikowske said after the seizure of the counterfeit hoverboards, “Working closely with our partners, we want to ensure that counterfeit and substandard merchandise does not appear in households this holiday season.”

It’s important to remember that there are many legitimate hoverboards being sold online and in stores that come from trusted brands using legitimate components.

However, as with many hot-ticket items, counterfeit hoverboards are frequently being sold online, where unsuspecting consumers are met by criminals trying to take advantage of shoppers looking for a good deal and as a way to skip the hustle and bustle of busy brick-and-mortar stores.  With prices that are often too good to be true, consumers are tempted to quickly click and purchase, often sending their financial information to criminals waiting at the other end of the screen.  We see it far too often.

GIPC’s David Hirschmann recently outlined tips produced by GIPC’s Global Brand Council to help shoppers stay safe this holiday season (and any time of year) in a piece for  As Hirschmann noted, consumers may visit websites that route to phishing scams, have malware embedded, and allow non-secure transactions leaving consumers vulnerable and their personal financial information at risk.

When unsafe products pose hazards to American consumers – whether that’s physical harm or in the form of financial risk — they are simply not worth the discount.

While GIPC and government officials are working hard to raise awareness of the importance of buying from trusted brands and the risks posed from counterfeit goods, it’s important for consumers to empower themselves in order to stay safe.

After all, this year’s hoverboard could be next year’s… anything.

Matt Harakal is Director of Communications for the Global Intellectual Property Center.

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