Arsenic in your lipstick? Carcinogens in your perfume? Real possibilities, if you buy counterfeit cosmetics and fragrances, warns the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. government agency that has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime.
In a January 2 news release, the FBI reported a sharp increase in the sales of dangerous beauty products, thanks in part to the Internet, which allows anyone, anywhere widespread access to potential customers. In early December, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it had teamed with 10 foreign law enforcement agencies to seize hundreds of websites that were selling counterfeit merchandise to unsuspecting consumers.
“The 706 [websites] seized were set up to dupe consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods as part of the holiday shopping season,” the ICE news release said.
The FBI says criminals increasingly view dealing in counterfeit personal care products — as well as other knock-off consumer goods — as a relatively low-risk crime.
“There is no typical profile of the individuals or groups trafficking in these kinds of counterfeit products,” the FBI news release says,“and this might just be one of their many illegal activities — oftentimes, the illicit proceeds are used to fund other types of crime. We’ve also seen people selling counterfeit products through online auction sites and other websites just to make a little extra cash. … Some may not even realize their merchandise is fake.”
The FBI news release includes tips for recognizing fake cosmetics and fragrances.