Americans are expected to spend $18.2 billion on Valentine's Day, according to the National Retail Federation. Unfortunately, some of that amount may be diverted by counterfeiters attempting to cash in on that with phony goods.
"Valentine's Day is coming up. So you'll see an uptick in counterfeit colognes, perfumes cause those are common gifts," said Jason Molina, an assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigation's New York field office.
Counterfeit goods are estimated to bring in $600-$700 billion a year worldwide, according to Molina—and that figure is growing. In fiscal year 2016, the Department of Homeland Security counterfeit good seizures were up 9 percent over the comparable year-ago period.
Not only is that money diverted from legitimate business, it can also fund other illicit activities.
"Billions of dollars that are made from these items can go to fund terrorist organizations and go fund other criminal elements throughout the world," said Molina.
Agents and investigators from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security are on the front lines of trying to stop the phony goods from entering the country.
It's the proverbial needle in the haystack, as eleven million shipping containers—each with as many as 2,000 boxes—enter the U.S. annually through various ports.