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Caveat emptor: Latin, meaning “let the buyer beware!”

Ken Kleinlein

Ken Klein­lein

By Ken Kleinlein

Crime Scene

ENGLEWOOD, Fla. – The sale of coun­ter­feit prod­ucts is far from a vic­tim­less crime, The True Cost of Fake Goods. Coun­ter­feit­ing ben­e­fits illicit activ­i­ties such as drug and human traf­fick­ing, child labor, and even ter­ror­ism. Many fakes are sim­ply cheap knock-offs of designer clothes, oth­ers have poten­tially dev­as­tat­ing health and safety consequences.


Nine per­cent of all fakes seized by U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion last year were pre­scrip­tion drugs and per­sonal care products.

They could be sub potent, super potent, expired, or adul­ter­ated. Bogus phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals are sold via unap­proved Inter­net phar­ma­cies, which some­times try to fool con­sumers by post­ing reas­sur­ing sym­bols like a stolen Food & Drug Admin­is­tra­tion logo. Online phar­ma­cies ped­dling inex­pen­sive pre­scrip­tion drugs pur­port­edly from Canada have been have revealed as fronts for rogue oper­a­tions based in Rus­sia, Asia, and the Mid­dle East.

Fake online phar­ma­cies lack safe­guards to pro­tect per­sonal and finan­cial infor­ma­tion; some inten­tion­ally mis­use your infor­ma­tion. These sites may also infect your com­puter with viruses or sell your per­sonal infor­ma­tion to other rogue web sites and Inter­net scams.

They allow you to buy drugs with­out a doctor’s pre­scrip­tion; offer unre­al­is­ti­cally deep dis­counts; send spam or unso­licited email pitches for cheap drugs; and are located out­side of the United States. Check to see that an online drug­store is licensed by your state’s phar­macy board (visit the National Asso­ci­a­tion of Boards of Phar­macy). Legit­i­mate sell­ers always require a valid pre­scrip­tion, have a phys­i­cal address and tele­phone num­ber in the U.S., and have a licensed phar­ma­cist on hand to answer your ques­tions. If you believe you have received coun­ter­feit med­i­cine, con­tact the FDA’s Office of Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tions at 800−551−3989.

Auto parts

The dis­tri­b­u­tion of illicit auto parts is at an alarm­ing rate, accord­ing to Bruce Fou­cart, direc­tor of the National Intel­lec­tual Prop­erty Rights Coor­di­na­tion Cen­ter. The parts are smug­gled into the coun­try and sold to inde­pen­dent stores, some­times know­ingly, some­times not. At best these parts will not per­form as well as authen­tic ones. At worst, they can fail cat­a­stroph­i­cally with poten­tially fatal con­se­quences. Every vehi­cle com­po­nent is sub­ject to knock-off: brake pads, oil and fuel fil­ters, spark plugs, air bags, tires, smart keys, water pumps, and so forth. Some of the most dan­ger­ous ones, like air bags, can explode in the victim’s face dur­ing an accident

Accord­ing to Ford, coun­ter­feit brakes often have poor-quality steel back­ing plates and weak or no shim bond­ing to the back plate. The pads are often made from compressed-wood chips and saw­dust. Short­cuts in paint mate­ri­als and appli­ca­tion can lead to corrosion.


Coun­ter­feit small appli­ances such as elec­tric hair dry­ers can be deadly. For years, the U.S. Con­sumer Prod­uct Safety Com­mis­sion has warned peo­ple about sub­stan­dard dry­ers that lack a ground-fault cir­cuit inter­rupter (GFCI) to pro­tect against elec­tri­cal shock or electrocution.

Recharge­able batteries

Replac­ing a smart phone bat­tery can be expen­sive, so instead of pur­chas­ing a costly replace­ment from the man­u­fac­turer, con­sumers may con­sider a no-name or off-brand sub­sti­tute instead.  Most wire­less devices use lithium-ion bat­ter­ies because they’re light­weight, capa­ble of hold­ing their charge a long time, take plenty of recharges, and don’t con­tain toxic met­als. Trou­ble is, they are sen­si­tive to phys­i­cal stresses, accord­ing to CTIA. Even legit­i­mate ones must be kept away from hot sur­faces and metal objects such as coins, keys, or jew­elry. Too much pres­sure on the bat­tery can cause an inter­nal short-circuit, result­ing in over­heat­ing. The use of coun­ter­feits could result in the bat­tery expand­ing, explod­ing, or catch­ing fire.

Last year, U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion agents con­fis­cated more than 23,000 ship­ments of coun­ter­feit goods, val­ued at $1.2 bil­lion had they been real.

Sad News:

Please pray for the fam­ily of NYPD Offi­cer Ran­dolph Holder shot and killed in the line of duty by recidi­vist felon Tyrone Howard.

The NYPD recently lost an out­stand­ing indi­vid­ual. Detec­tive and for­mer US Marine Tom Ross passed in Octo­ber. He was a friend to many and a great detec­tive. Pray for his fam­ily in this dif­fi­cult time.

Take care, be care­ful, and I’ll see you at the next Crime Scene.

God Bless and pro­tect our mil­i­tary, law enforce­ment, fire fight­ers, and EMT’s.

Ken Klein­lein is a for­mer detec­tive with the New York Police Depart­ment spe­cial frauds squad, coor­di­nat­ing with local, state, and fed­eral law enforce­ment, along with accred­ited secu­rity firms, on mat­ters of crime pre­ven­tion and pub­lic information.

(Sources: US Depart­ment of Home­land Security/Customs and Boarder Pro­tec­tion; Con­sumer Reports; Engle­wood Com­puter Watch­dog George Marriott.)

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