Fraudsters flogging fake COVID products, fake treatments, and fake medical products on the black market is widespread nowadays. Many of the products are unsafe and can endanger public health. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a database listing fraudulent test kits and products for SARS-CoV-2.
On April 16, a tractor-trailer en route to Mexico was intercepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials with Homeland Security Investigations authorities at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Arizona according to a statement that was withheld until May 27.
The trailer was jam packed with thousands of undeclared made-in-China packages containing necklaces. Three pallets of so-called “Virus Shut Out” necklaces were discovered inside the vehicle. The products resembled a lanyard with a name tag attached, but the tag was replaced with a small blue container. The container, filled with the pesticide chlorine dioxide, claimed to “create an anti-bacterial cloud,” supposedly to shield the wearer from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Yiwu Haoyi Biotechnology Co. Ltd., from Yiwu City in Zhejiang, is the manufacturer of the product yet, no online website was found in either Chinese or English for the company.
Agents also seized garments bearing counterfeit trademarks along with the shipment of 30,000 devices. The Virus Shut Out necklaces were valued at a street value of $479,700 at $16 a piece, and the garments including T-shirts, footwear, and textiles, were valued by CBP’s Pharmaceuticals Centers for Excellence and Expertise at $24,200.
The FDA has warned consumers not to purchase or consume chlorine dioxide products sold online as medical treatments, “Despite previous warnings, the FDA is concerned that we are still seeing chlorine dioxide products being sold with misleading claims that they are safe and effective for the treatment of diseases, now including COVID-19.”
“The sale of these products can jeopardize a person’s health and delay proper medical treatment. We continue to take action and keep up our efforts to monitor for fraudulent treatments during this public health emergency and remind the public to seek medical help from their health care providers.”
It wasn’t the first time CBP has seized the same product. In July of 2020, the agency seized 10,000 units, which contained packaging written in Japanese rather than English. CBP waited until September to issue a press release.
Around 51 percent of counterfeit or substandard COVID-19 related products last year came from China. More than 12.7 million made-in-China masks and over 177,000 illegal virus test kits were seized by CBP between September and October last year, according to The Epoch Times.
Other counterfeit products including medical products and counterfeit coins experts state are used to support huge gangs of criminal businesses. Lorrie Turner, legal counsel and Senior Vice President of brand protection for New Era Cap Co., told the CBC, “All of that money is used illegitimately to support other criminal activity. While you may think it’s just an individual trying to earn money, ultimately all of that money goes toward nefarious things.”
In Los Angeles, customs officials seized three shipments from China containing counterfeit products, including one million counterfeit Viagra pills, footwear, belts, purses, and headphones. The seized items had an estimated value at over $32 million.
Counterfeit toys from China worth approximately $1.3 million were also seized last year at the Port of New York/Newark, the CBP announced on Dec. 21.
Interpol warns on its website that “there is a clear link between illicit trade and other types of crime, such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, corruption, bribery and money laundering.”
The CBP warns that phony products tend to be of a low quality.
“Peeling labels, low-quality ink or printing errors on the packaging, and loosely packed items in the box can be signs that the product you purchased may not be legitimate,” it stated.
FDA has also encouraged health care professionals and consumers to report adverse reactions or quality issues regarding COVID-19 products to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.