Cailey Rizzo
January 09, 2018

We have a pretty clear mental image of the type of person who’s flagged by border patrol for illegally importing goods. We may imagine they partake in shady midnight exchanges at docks, buy counterfeit goods in bulk and engage in seedy dark web purchases.

An Amazon order for a single luxury suitcase is generally not on this mental list.

Harper Reed, the former chief technology officer at Obama for America, tried ordering a Rimowa suitcase off the online marketplace “awhile back,” Racked reported. The suitcase never arrived, Amazon refunded the order and Reed purchased it in person at a Neiman Marcus. It appeared that the ordeal was over.

However, Reed didn’t know that the suitcase had been seized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and that he had been flagged for importing a counterfeit.

In November, Reed went to an interview to renew his Global Entry Trusted Traveler status. The interviewer denied Reed’s renewal because he had been flagged by CBP for importing counterfeit goods: one Rimowa suitcase.

“This is pretty annoying,” Reed wrote on Twitter. “The listing was full price and seemed like all other Amazon Items. But I guess it wasn’t.”

As Amazon becomes a more sophisticated middle man — setting up warehouses, allowing third-parties to take part in Prime two-day shipping — it can be difficult to tell the difference between the real thing and a knock-off. Particularly when counterfeit companies can use misleading names, take imagery directly from a company, and undersell them by just a few dollars.

One way to avoid this potential problem is to buy luxury and brand-name items directly from the brand itself. For example, Birkenstock has pulled all of its products from Amazon and doesn’t allow any retailers to sell via Amazon, according to Racked. However Amazon users will still find hundreds of deceiving listings for the German shoe. When purchasing on Amazon, you should scrutinize the actual seller of the item.

Even if customers are lured to purchase by the counterfeiting company, the chances of the package being seized by border control are up to chance. Agents must manually search through large bins of packages to locate any that are suspicious.

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