The Christmas holiday shopping season has prompted RCMP in Manitoba to warn consumers about the dangers of buying counterfeit goods.

Popular fakes

RCMP say the most popular counterfeit items are:

  1. Sports jerseys.
  2. Headphones.
  3. Designer purses, clothes and accessories.
  4. Pharmaceuticals.
  5. Cellphone parts and accessories.

Some other common counterfeit products include:

  • Audio-visual items like DVDs.
  • Toothpaste.
  • Chainsaws.
  • Hockey and bicycle helmets.
  • Light fixtures.
  • Auto parts.
  • Circuit breakers.
  • Shampoo.
  • Batteries.
  • Jewelry.

Manitoba RCMP say they have seized $500,000 in counterfeit goods so far this year, up $200,000 from last year.

But knock-off items can put people in danger because counterfeiters spend nothing on quality control, RCMP said Tuesday.

"They do not care what happens to consumers who buy and use substandard counterfeit products," RCMP stated in a news release.

Police say for example, counterfeit electrical devices can catch fire, causing injury and serious damage to property, while fake pharmaceuticals often have no active ingredients or worse, have toxic ingredients and have caused death.

Counterfeit children's clothing contains no fire retardant, while counterfeit toys do not meet any safety standards, they added.

"There is no guarantee that counterfeit goods have gone through any kind of inspection, meet any quality standards and there is no guarantee they do not contain dangerous materials," said Cpl. John Montgomery of the RCMP's federal enforcement section.

'Money is the driving factor'

Montgomery said nearly all of the counterfeit goods have two things in common: they're made in China and they were purchased online.

"This one jacket I wanted to buy downtown was $800, but I could get it on the internet for $250. And there's a reason — because it's not authentic," he said.

"It's the price. Money is the driving factor."

Police say criminals involved in intellectual property crime — copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting — range from organized crime groups to small-scale retailers who sell small quantities of counterfeit goods to supplement their income.

"Many people are also unaware that buying these cheap knock-offs could mean they are inadvertently supporting organized crime or other types of criminality," the RCMP release stated.

"Job loss because of lost revenue for legitimate businesses is also a consequence of counterfeit goods."

Police are advising consumers to look out for the "4P indicators" that a product may be counterfeit:

  • Package: Examine the packaging and look for spelling errors or a shoddy appearance.
  • Price: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Place: Buy from reputable retailers and use extra diligence when purchasing items through the internet.
  • Product: Is the quality and appearance of the product satisfactory?

Knock-off Jets jerseys not a big hit this year

While the NHL lockout may be hurting many legitimate businesses, it also appears to be curbing counterfeit sales of Winnipeg Jets jerseys.

Montgomery says police are not seeing as many fake jerseys this year as they did when the Jets came back to Winnipeg last year.

"This year, I think we've only seized about 50 counterfeit Winnipeg Jets jerseys, [whereas] last year we seized well over 500," he said.

"The item's just not selling this year. When they get going again, undoubtedly we'll have more seizures."

Counterfeit Jets jerseys started appearing online about a month before the authentic uniform designs were unveiled in the fall of 2011.