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Counterfeit alert over web bargains

Online Christmas shoppers are being warned to take extra care over their internet bargains after border officers reported seizing 12 million in counterfeit goods.

The UK Border Force said it has seized 6,000 parcels and packets at an international postal depot since the start of October.

Among the goods seized were fake Armani and Cartier watches, jewellery and counterfeit clothing and footwear, including Ugg boots, Louis Vuitton handbags and Nike sportswear. Also among the items were boxes of Beats by Dr Dre headphones.

In all, 58,000 items have been intercepted at the Coventry International Hub, and almost all were destined for individual UK addresses - most likely people trying to buy Christmas presents at a bargain price, say border officers.

Seizures have spiked in the run-up to Christmas.

Border officers are permanently based at the massive national postal distribution centre and use scanning equipment to sort the fake goods from the genuine.

All the counterfeit goods are destroyed, with the buyers likely to lose their money. Border officers are not responsible for telling the buyers their goods have been seized.

However, the buyers' details are all passed to the brand-name companies whose goods they ordered, so they can then be given the chance to buy the genuine article instead.

Home Office minister Mark Harper said cheap counterfeits were a threat to the British economy, and at worst unsafe. "Shoppers should take great care when buying online to avoid being ripped-off, and further fuelling this illegal trade," he said.

Ria Baxendale, Border Force assistant director at Coventry International Hub, said: "It is easy to think you are getting a bargain, but our message is that if something appears too good to be true, it probably is. You could end up out of pocket - but even worse, you could end up with a fake product that is inferior and could be harmful or unsafe."

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