While federal and local governments are more aware of the situation than in years past, counterfeiters have become more savvy about being detected, moving from New York City's infamous Canal Street and Santee Alley in Los Angeles (the sites of many busts) to direct-to-customer sales on the Web, as well as mobile shops that are harder to track, according to WWD.
Most of the fake products are coming from China and the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition estimates that these illegal operations cost oft-imitated luxury companies like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Coach, Burberry, Gucci, and others around $250 billion a year in lost sales, which translates to 750,000 lost jobs.
In 2009, the U.S. Customs & Border Protection found $260.7 million worth of counterfeit goods, most of which was footwear ($99.8 million), followed by handbags and wallets ($21.5 million), apparel (also $21.5 million), watches ($15.53 million), and jewelry ($10.5 million), WWD reports.
According to Kris Buckner, a counterfeit investigator interviewed on CNBC's upcoming special "Crime Inc.: Counterfeit Goods" (Wednesday, July 14, at 9pm ET/PT), the dangerous end result of buying counterfeit goods is unknown to many customers.
"Sales of counterfeit goods have been tied to street gangs and terrorist organizations," he says. "There's a lot of implications from the sales of counterfeit goods that I don't think the general public knows or understands."
Besides explaining these relationships, the CNBC special (set your DVR now!) will chronicle the long battle between New Balance and Chinese counterfeiters and even fake Botox treatments that left a Florida couple fighting for their lives.
In the meantime, read about Fendi's recent victory over a surprising retailer selling counterfeits.