WASHINGTON – With the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning competing in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) and the National Hockey League (NHL) are reminding sports fans to beware of purchasing counterfeit sports-related merchandise and apparel during the championship series.
Federal authorities from the IPR Center, in conjunction with the NHL, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are teaming up with local law enforcement, as well as other public-private sector partners, to identify online marketplaces, flea markets, retail outlets, pop-up shops, and street vendors selling counterfeit goods during the Stanley Cup Final.
Large sporting events, such as the Stanley Cup Playoffs, are prime targets for bad actors who are extremely savvy and often set up fake websites or e-commerce marketplaces with the sole intent of scamming sports fans.
Last year, between February 2021 and 2022, the IPR Center seized more than 267,511 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated $97.8 million during Operation Team Player, a year-round effort developed by the IPR Center to crackdown on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports apparel and entertainment merchandise.
“The NHL very much appreciates the assistance of the IPR Center, HSI, CBP, and their law enforcement partners in protecting hockey fans from being duped by scammers, particularly during the Stanley Cup Final,” said Tom Prochnow, Senior Vice President, Legal of NHL Enterprises, L.P.
“Our partnership with the NHL is just one example of our global effort to stop criminals from profiting from the sale of counterfeit, trademarked merchandise. No one knows their product better than those who create and manufacture it, which is why we rely on industry expertise to help identify criminals to prevent them from scamming consumers,” said James Mancuso, IPR Center director.
“For all the fans looking to celebrate the Avs being a part of the playoffs by wearing a jersey or buying other merchandise, beware of fakes,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, HSI Denver Special Agent in Charge. “HSI along with the NHL will be diligent in looking for counterfeit merchandise being sold to unsuspecting fans in an effort to better protect consumers.”
Here are a few tips for sports fans to keep in mind when making purchases to avoid being victimized:
- Shop only at trustworthy retail locations, such as the official team stores, rather than buying items from street vendors, flea markets, online auctions, or other questionable sources.
- When purchasing merchandise online, be aware that criminals often use legit product photos on their websites despite selling fraudulent products. Consumers are advised not to buy expensive items from third party websites.
- Only buy event tickets and/or collectibles from trustworthy sources.
- If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. While some counterfeiters may attract fans with a low-price tag or 2-for-1 deal, just as many try to legitimize their merchandise with a higher price point.
- Look out for ripped tags, poor quality, sloppy stitching, and irregular markings on apparel.
- Check statements – keep a record of purchases and copies of confirmation pages to compare against bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.
The IPR Center’s message to consumers is simple – purchase from reputable dealers, be cautious when shopping online, and use common sense. If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is, and is likely to either be a rip off or even a threat to safety. Purchasing authorized merchandise guarantees the quality and life of that souvenir, while also providing a reputable source for concerns, returns, and exchanges.
About the IPR Center
For more than two decades, the IPR Center, working collaboratively with its public-private sector partners, has led the effort in the government’s response to combat global intellectual property theft and enforce intellectual property rights violations. The center was established to combat global intellectual property theft – and, accordingly, has a significant role policing the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods on websites, social media, and the dark web.