Potentially dangerous counterfeit toys smuggled into United States

ATLANTA — The holidays mean many parents will be shopping for toys. But you may not be aware of the potentially dangerous fakes out there.

This year’s hot toys include Hatchimals and the Nintendo NES Classic Edition gaming system.

“I don’t even know what they are. Shopkins, I am buying Shopkins. I guess that’s some of the hot toys,” said shopper Melissa Moseley.

“If there’s a toy that’s very popular, you can be sure someone is going to try to counterfeit it,” said Lisa Brown, U.S. Customs & Border Protection Area Port director.

Brown said officers at the Port of Savannah in Georgia pay extra attention to movie tie-ins and sports merchandise.

A reporter with FOX25's sister station WSB saw a container that contained more than $70,000 worth of counterfeit toys.

Inside it were toy cars that had fake BMW logos.  The hubcaps fell off another toy car when it was pushed.

Officers also seized toys that don’t meet U.S. safety standards, including a mini ATV that doesn’t have the required emissions system, so it’s illegal to operate.

“From a distance, someone could maybe think that this is real,” said Brown.

She was talking about replica guns that had orange safety tips that could be pushed in easily. The orange safety tip lets people know it’s a toy and not the real thing.

Officers find fakes by checking a shipment’s paperwork and using an X-ray screening machine to look for anything unusual. If they see anything suspicious, they’ll open the container and examine its contents.

The Port of Savannah made 75 counterfeit seizures worth $9.2 million last year.  Across the U.S., there were nearly $1.4 billion worth of fakes confiscated in 2015.  Most of the counterfeits came from China and Hong Kong.

There are two big concerns about counterfeit toys and electronics.

“No guarantees about the longevity or the safety of it. It could catch fire. It could have high contents of lead,” Brown said.

“I mean, who wants your child playing with something that could potentially harm them or kill them or set the house on fire?” said Julia Demetrius, a mother.

The other issue involves the money made from the fakes.

“Second of all, you don’t know where the proceeds of this are going. It could be going to fund criminal or terrorist organizations,” said Brown.

Brown’s advice is parents should buy gifts from reputable dealers or stores.

“Also, if it seems too good to be true, or the price is too good to be true, it probably is,” Brown said.

Parents said that's advice they will follow.

“It’s absolutely important. These are kids that I know and I love and I care about their safety,” said Demetrius.

A seller of the replica guns said they are not counterfeit and do comply with the law.

The importer is a reputable company and working with Customs and Border Protection as well as federal authorities, to fix the issue with the loose plug.

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