Law enforcement is on the lookout for fake World Series merchandise

On Your Side's Susan Campbell has a look at what investigators look for and why you should stick to the real stuff.
Published: Oct. 31, 2023 at 3:04 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — As the Arizona Diamondbacks face the Texas Rangers in the World Series, federal investigators are looking for counterfeit sports products in Phoenix. “We have a team from Homeland Security Investigation special agents out looking for counterfeit product and also reviewing leads that we’ve received regarding vendors that may be either knowingly or unknowingly selling counterfeit items,” said Eric McLoughlin, the HSI Phoenix deputy special agent in charge. He said HSI is partnering with the Phoenix Police Department, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and MLB for its investigations into fake sports merchandise related to the World Series.

Last year, through Operation Team Player, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR) seized about 180,000 pieces of counterfeit sports merchandise worth an estimated $23 million. The year prior, IPR reported seizures of sports memorabilia totaling almost $98 million.

“Counterfeit intellectual property is a worldwide problem, but when there are large scale events like the World Series, like the Super Bowl, we do see a lot of these individuals looking to take advantage of that. You have an influx of personnel coming to places like Phoenix where they feel they can make a quick buck by taking advantage of the influx of folks coming in and they’re trying to profit from that,” McLoughlin said.

A lot of people may say, “So what? I’m not hurting anyone if I wear a fake shirt,” but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. First, you’re wasting your own money because the products are junk. You’re also hurting legitimate businesses that paid for pricey licenses to produce sports merchandise, and those bad guys aren’t paying taxes, so your community isn’t benefiting from any sales tax, according to McLoughlin.

Telltale signs of counterfeit gear include ripped tags, poor quality, sloppy stitching, and irregular markings on jerseys, hats, and other apparel, according to IPR. To avoid fake sports merchandise, the agency recommends shopping at MLB-authorized retailers, including Chase Field, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Lids and Shoppers should look for the official MLB hologram sticker or holographic hangtag and avoid purchases through street vendors and flea markets.

It is also important for baseball fans to shop carefully online. Unscrupulous online sellers can use real product photos to lure in customers. “You may not even know if you’re going to get a legitimate or illegitimate product, but now those individuals have your credit card information,” McLoughlin said. “They can now attempt to steal from you, open up fraudulent accounts in your name. You have no idea what’s going on with that information that you now just voluntarily gave up to what could be a criminal group.” If you suspect you purchased a counterfeit item, report it to IPR.

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