Feds Seize Nearly $400K in Counterfeit AirPods, Apple Watches, and More

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In July, federal authorities conducted raids at the Long Beach Seaport and Ontario International Airport in California that resulted in the seizure of close to $400,000 in counterfeit Apple products, including fake AirPods and Apple Watches.

NBC Los Angeles reports that the fake items included wireless earphones and faux Apple Watches concealed in “generic packaging,” according to Jaime Ruiz of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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The haul included 220 “wrist wearable devices” and 1,200 pairs of wireless headphones, Ruiz told the news station.

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The feds say the counterfeit devices arrived from Hong Kong via six separate shipments. All of the shipments were confiscated during a single week in July.

Ruiz added that “if genuine, the seized products would have had an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $396,812.”

Federal officials did not provide any details about the individual raids or how they detected the shipments in Long Beach and Ontario.

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July’s federal raids are not the first time we’ve seen authorities seize counterfeit Apple items. The popularity of Apple devices and accessories has made the Cupertino company’s items a popular target among counterfeiters.

In November 2019, the Feds raided a pair of businesses and several residences in Mira Mesa and Mission Hills, California, seizing 90 fake iPhones and $250,000 in cash. Three brothers were allegedly the leaders of the scam, and authorities believe they imported more than 10,000 counterfeit iPhones and iPads from China.

The counterfeit goods were “intentionally damaged” and then were exchanged under warranty for genuine items at Apple Stores. The genuine devices were then sent to China to be sold there.

In March 2023, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers grabbed more than 1,000 pairs of counterfeit AirPods Pro 2 earbuds worth over $290,000 on the street during a raid at Washington Dulles International Airport.

That same month, investigators also took a close look at four shipments headed for Fairfax County, Virginia, where they found more than 1,000 fake AirPods and 50 faux Apple Watches. The products had been shipped from China, which is a popular source for counterfeit items of all types. The counterfeiters could have scored as much as $290,000 if they had sold the items at the genuine items’ suggested retail price. (Although they would likely have been sold for much less.)

In 2016, the US Chamber of Commerce estimated that the counterfeit products authorities have been able to seize represent a mere 2.5% of the world’s actual counterfeiting activity. Considering the desirability of Apple’s AirPods, the estimates indicate that there are nearly 15,000,000 fake AirPods in users’ ears around the globe.

Some estimates indicate this could add up to as much as a $3.2 billion loss in AirPods sales for Apple. However, that’s assuming that everyone who bought counterfeit AirPods would have purchased the real thing if the fakes weren’t available. After all, I’d venture to guess that many buyers aren’t actually fooled by the fake Apple items and simply buy them to have the look of Apple products without the cost.

Happily, there are ways to detect fake AirPods and other Apple products. For more information about how to identify Apple forgeries, read our article, found here.

If you have any information about suspected fraudulent electronics or other items, 800-BE-ALERT to report it. Also, you can report any intellectual property rights violations at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center website or by calling 866-IPR-2060.

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