By Staff

HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Houston Seaport intercepted a shipment of counterfeit N95 masks with an estimated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of almost $350,000.

This counterfeit mask infringes on the NIOSH trademark. (credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

“Counterfeit goods not only hurt the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers, but they also pose substantial health and safety hazards for American consumers,” said Houston CBP Port Director Roderick Hudson. “In this instance, these counterfeit N95 respirators may not be effective at filtering airborne particles.”

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The shipment of counterfeit masks originated in China and were destined to White Plains, N.Y. before officers intercepted it, April 7.

When the shipment arrived at the Houston Seaport, officers examined it and found 171,460 masks with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health logo on the boxes.  But when they contacted the trademark holder, they were advised that this shipment was not licensed, and it was determined the masks were counterfeit.

Counterfeiters have recognized the demand for personal protective equipment remains high, according to the border agency. In the first three months of 2021, officers seized 18 million counterfeit face masks. For comparison, they seized more than 12 million counterfeit face masks in 2020 and only 1,300 counterfeit face masks in 2019.

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For the Houston area of operations, officers seized 2.1 million counterfeit PPE masks from January to March of 2021, which was a stark increase from the 365,000 counterfeit face masks seized in all of 2020.

Hudson cautions consumers to remain alert for counterfeit and unapproved PPE.

“A few simple steps that consumers can take to protect themselves from becoming unsuspecting victims to those peddling counterfeit goods are to purchase goods only from reputable retailers,” Hudson said. “And when shopping online, read the seller’s reviews, check for a working U.S. phone number and a U.S. address that can be used to contact the seller.”

The seized counterfeit masks were turned over to the agency’s Fines, Penalties and Forfeiture’s office for final disposition.

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Intellectual property rights violations can be reported to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center or by telephone at 1-866-IPR-2060.

This shipment arrived to the Houston Seaport and
contained over 170K fake N95 respirator face masks. (credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection) Staff