Global Efforts by Law Enforcement to Protect NFL Fans from Counterfeit Merchandise During the 2023 NFL London Games

With the 2023 NFL London Games scheduled to take place at Wembley and Tottenham Hotspur Stadiums, the U.S. National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) and the NFL are reminding sports fans to shop safe and be wary of counterfeit sports-related merchandise and apparel during the upcoming international games.

U.S. law enforcement authorities, in conjunction with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police, are teaming up with the NFL to identify online marketplaces, e-commerce platforms, markets and other retail outlets engaged in the sale of counterfeit goods.

“While we understand fans are looking for the best deals to support their favorite NFL team, we want to ensure they are equipped to make informed decisions to avoid being scammed and, most importantly, unnecessarily opening themselves up to financial schemes,” said Tim Hemker, Homeland Security Investigations Attaché to the United Kingdom.

Investigative efforts have shown large sporting events across the globe are target opportunities for criminals, with the intent of scamming sports fans to make illicit profits. Whether it’s a fan losing hard-earned money on a fake jersey they were led to believe was authentic, or small businesses losing vital sales, intellectual property theft is not a victimless crime – these unlawful acts have legitimate financial and personal impact, including identify theft.

Between February 2022 and 2023, more than 180,000 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated $22.7 million were seized during Operation Team Player, a year-round global effort developed by the IPR Center to crack down on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports-branded merchandise.

“The NFL is proud to partner with the IPR Center, Homeland Security at the U.S. Embassy in London, and the City of London Police on this transatlantic effort to help protect fans from counterfeit goods,” said Dolores DiBella, NFL Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs.“The NFL also deeply appreciates its long-standing relationships with the Trading Standards and Licensing Officers in Brent and Haringey Councils, who have been integral to helping NFL fans enjoy authentic gameday experiences here in London, building even more enthusiasm for the weeks ahead. We sincerely value these consumer protection initiatives that help ensure fans can support their favourite teams and avoid counterfeit scams.”

“The growing popularity of the NFL in the UK makes it a lucrative opportunity for criminals to exploit the loyalty of fans by selling counterfeit merchandise,” said Gary Robinson, Detective Superintendent, Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police. “These products are made with little concern for quality and safety and, often, criminals will use the profits from counterfeit goods to fuel other organised crime. Always shop from a reputable dealer and, if a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Here are a few tips for sports fans to keep in mind when making purchases:

  • Only shop at trusted retail locations.

  • Be cautious when shopping online. If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Criminals often use legitimate product photos on their websites despite selling a fraudulent product.

  • Consumers should use caution before buying expensive items from unfamiliar online sellers. Purchasing merchandise from authorized dealers that are reputable sources for quality merchandise helps ensure that your transaction will be safe, and concerns will be handled responsibly.

  • Look out for poor quality, sloppy stitching, missing security labels, or irregular markings on apparel.

  • Check your online bank statements. Keep a record of purchases and copies of confirmation pages and compare them to bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, consumers should report it immediately.

Members of the public who think they have been sold counterfeit goods or suspect somebody of selling them can report anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Your local Trading Standards office can also give you advice or you can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

 

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