COUNTYWIDE  — During the holiday shopping season everyone is looking for a great deal, especially when it comes to buying luxury items like purses or shoes. Sometimes those deals can be too good to be true.

Not all knockoffs are as easy to spot as these phony Puma shoes. (Photo courtesy ‪phandroid.com‬)

Not all knockoffs are as easy to spot as these phony Puma shoes. (Photo courtesy ‪phandroid.com‬)

Officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Counterfeit and Piracy Enforcement Team are reminding consumers to be on the lookout for knockoffs and to report them when they see them.

That’s because counterfeit goods and piracy cost American businesses more than $200 billion each year in lost revenue, depriving local governments of lost income or tax dollars that could have been generated through legitimate sales, officials said.

Those goods also impose a serious health and safety risk to consumers. Whether it’s counterfeit prescription medication or cigarettes that contain unknown substances, consumers are being deceived into believing these are safe and legitimate products.

Deputies served approximately 46 search warrants last year, made 75 arrests and seized over $15 million in counterfeit products. The products seized ranged from luxury goods to health and safety items like pharmaceuticals, batteries, contact lenses and laundry detergent.

Los Angeles County Crime Stoppers has partnered with several companies and law enforcement to combat counterfeiting and piracy. To report suspicious or illegal activity, call deputies at (323) 981-5300 or visit www.lacrimestoppers.org.

There is no foolproof way to know the difference between a bargain and a fake, but labels and packaging can be revealing indicators. Look for missing or expired “use by” dates, broken or missing safety seals, missing warranty information, or otherwise unusual packaging, officials said.

Whether purchasing online or at retail locations, only purchase from authorized retailers listed by the manufacturer. If you are uncertain whether a retailer acquired its products from a legitimate distributor, ask for verifiable information from the retailer about the source of the goods.

kevinh@smdp.com