Exploring the world of counterfeiting was an eye-opener in ways I never expected.
When our producers and I started investigating the longtime threat of counterfeits, I expected the problem, while growing, was probably confined to the world of fake purses and watches—goods that are cheap and easy to reproduce and sell on a retail level.
Boy, was I wrong.
The trend of counterfeiting goes far beyond that, from consumer products like baby formula and prescription medicine to industrial products like military components.
The sophistication of the crime is almost mind-boggling. Where would one even begin to go about copying a complex chemical compound like, say, cough syrup? It seems beyond the reach of the common criminal.
And yet, counterfeiters have figured out not only how to make a product that looks like cough syrup; they're sophisticated enough to make cough syrup that actually delivers some relief— just enough so customers keep coming back for more.
Of course, these products are made without any of the safeguards that protect consumers in regulated markets around the world.
Counterfeit cigarettes have been known to contain insect eggs. Fake prescription medicines can be made in environments that are unclean or germ-ridden.
That's where the real risks to consumers come in: Counterfeiters have no regard for the well-being of their customers. Experts will tell you they are simply in it for the profit.
X-Ray Eyes on Imports
What I found encouraging, in the course of reporting this story, is the degree to which law enforcement is taking it seriously. U.S. Customs and Border Protection watch our nation's ports like a hawk, screening virtually every shipping container that comes into the country with x-rays.