Scammers sell everything from fake handbags to fake electronics, but they are getting creative, and it could become deadly, according to Customs and Border Protection. Some people are pawning off fake alcohol to unsuspecting customers because of supply chain delays and inflation, according to experts.
When consumer demand exceeds supply, you tend to have the black markets looking to capitalize on that, said Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Executive Vice President of Communications and Marketing Michael Bilello, Executive Vice President of Communications and Marketing.
Customs and Border Protection sized more than $3.3 billion worth of fake goods last fiscal year, including fake pharmaceuticals, shoes and electronics. Fake liquors were among the items seized. A large number of these items come from China.
Sazerac CEO Mark Brown said that his customers are being duped into buying fake alcohol.
He said that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of counterfeits, and we are finding examples of people who have bought bottles that have been refilled. Brown said that because supply has been low, people are looking for items on auction websites and marketplaces where they are getting scammed.
Bilello explained the importance of staying within the distribution chain to make sure you don't get harmed by consuming something potentially deadly.
Like any other market in the U.S., where there is a lot of value placed on items, you always have bad actors, he said.
Bilello said that consumers who go outside the three-tiered system in a heavily regulated marketplace are going to be subject to counterfeits and perhaps illicit alcohol.
The three-tiered system prevents distillers from selling and distributing alcohol, prohibits distributors from distilling and selling alcohol and prohibits retailers from distilling or distributing alcohol.
Bilello said that you are not going to be a victim of a scam inside the three-tiered system.
Gabriel Ibanez is the regional director of operations for Republic National Distributing Company, one of the largest alcohol distribution companies in the nation. They act as the middleman in the system.
We're getting direct from a supplier. He said that everything we are carrying is authentic.
There are strict regulations in place in the wine and spirits industry, but scammers still find a way to make profit and take advantage of people. Scammers will buy high-end empty bottles and fill them with water or cheaper alcohol before selling them off as something else.
People will buy them for a high price because they're selling for it, and we'll buy it from the supplier at its cost, ship to the customer at our cost, and they'll sell it from the retail value, Ibanez said.
Many counterfeit products are low-quality and can cause injuries. You can protect yourself and your family by avoiding potentially risky items.