SAN ANTONIO — They're made cheap, with unknown chemicals, and are often bought by the unsuspecting consumer. Imposter perfumes aren't just a ripoff, they're also dangerous.
The KENS 5 I-Team uncovered some bogus brands that are being sold in San Antonio.
For many shoppers, getting a great deal at a bargain price is reason enough to buy. However, a knockoff may not always be the best choice, especially when it comes to counterfeit perfumes.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the value of seized counterfeit fragrances ranges in the millions, and has contributed to the loss of an estimated 750,000 American jobs.
It's a problem that's spreading rapidly across the country.
Within recent weeks, Lt. Tom Roach and undercover detectives with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office recovered hundreds of bottles of counterfeit perfumes.
They said the fragrances could include active ingredients such as antifreeze, bacteria and even urine. Experts speculate the dangerous ingredients are used as pH stabilizers and also for color.
"Anything that you buy that is counterfeit could be very dangerous, said Lt. Darrell Sanders, of the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.
Tips to sniffing out a fake courtesy howtospotfake.org:
The seller must be reliable
The price should be reasonable
The packaging must be accurate
The bottle must be perfect
The perfume must be even
The bouquet must be long lasting
Now some vendors are trying to get around counterfeit laws by selling identical products with different names.
KENS 5 went undercover at a local flea market in northeast Bexar County, where employes at one store quickly led us to a wall of what they called "copy perfumes."
For about $12, shoppers can buy knockoffs that are very similar, but a little different, to brand name fragrances.
"As long as you change the name, it's legal to do," one worker said. "And it just says, 'Our version of.'"
It may smell like an even sweeter deal, but authorities say copy perfumes walk a thin line when it comes to the law. And in some cases, they may still be illegal.
"They're taking that portion of the market," Roach said. "People aren't able to produce those items because there's not a demand for the real stuff because people are buying the fake stuff."
Investigators said the next time shoppers reach for a fake, another word should come to mind: fraud.
"It will follow them. It will catch up to them. It's not going to go away," Roach said.
Although the price is cheaper, authorities want shoppers to realize that it's not a bargain, because laws are being broken and sellers could be pushing profits to support additional crimes, such as terrorism, child labor and drug cartels.