The Hidden World of Counterfeit Purses

Stefan Doyno
Katie's Take

Things aren’t always what they seem to be. Buying a fake watch or handbag might seem like a cheap thrill, but the profits can sometimes go toward even bigger illegal activities, such as child labor and terrorism.

Factories in India, China and Japan create carbon copies of the latest “it” bags, and then ship them off to big cities like New York and Miami, where they are then sold to consumers looking for a good deal.

“It’s very inexpensive to produce,” said Hitha Prabhakar, author of the book “Black Market Billions.” “They end up putting [the counterfeit goods] in these unmarked containers and sending it overseas -- which are then delivered by boat to ports all over the country.”

The fake goods ends up not only on the streets, but in stores and online.

“How do you stop these products from coming into the country?” Katie asked.

“The only way we’re going to solve this problem is by educating the consumer,” said James Dinkins, Executive Associate Director, Homeland Security Investigations. He also said that last year, Homeland Security seized $1.2 billion in counterfeit goods.

“I understand pirated CDs reportedly funded that bombing at the train station or on the train in Madrid, and that money from the sale of fake designer handbags sometimes funds terrorist groups like Hezbollah -– how does that work?” Katie asked.

“The bags are produced overseas and smuggled into the United States -- huge profits are earned and those criminal organizations with those huge amounts of profits often have the different type of ideology than we do in the United States and use those funds and profits they make to support different types of criminal organizations -- including terrorism,” Dinkins explained.

But counterfeit goods don’t just start and end with luxury goods. They can be found in other markets as well -- food, automobile parts and one of the scariest, prescription drugs such as fake Viagra.

“Wow. That’ll ruin your day,” Katie said.