LONDON — The U.S. National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit in London have teamed up with the NFL to protect fans from buying counterfeit merchandise and apparel during the 2023 NFL London Games. The three organizations work together to identify potentially dangerous online marketplaces, e-commerce platforms, markets and other retail outlets that sell 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 Homeland Security Investigations Attaché to the United Kingdom, Tim Hemker.
Intellectual property theft is not a victimless crime. Scammers use large sporting events like the NFL London Games as opportunities to rake in illicit profits. Often, these criminals pass off fake memorabilia as authentic, costing fans their hard-earned money, robbing small businesses of vital sales, and sometimes even resulting in identity theft.
To combat this growing threat, the IPR Center developed Operation Team Player — a year-round global effort that cracks down on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports-branded merchandise. Between February 2022 and February 2023, Operation Team Player authorities seized more than 180,000 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated $22.7 million.
“The NFL is proud to partner with the IPR Center, Homeland Security Investigations 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 NFL Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs Dolores DiBella. “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 Detective Superintendent Gary Robinson of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. “These products are made with little concern for quality and safety, and often, criminals will use the profits from counterfeit goods to fuel other organized 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:
- Shop only at trusted retail locations. Authorized dealers are generally reputable, safe to shop with and responsible about handling customer concerns.
- Be careful when shopping online. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Criminals often use legitimate product photos on their websites despite selling fraudulent products.
- Look for poor quality, sloppy stitching, missing security labels and irregular markings on apparel.
- Check your online bank statements. Record your purchases and keep copies of confirmation pages to compare them to bank statements. If you find a discrepancy, report it immediately.
If you think you’ve purchased counterfeit goods or suspect somebody of selling them, you have options. You can file an anonymous report by calling Crimestoppers at 0800-555-111, get advice from your local Trading Standards office, or contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline at 0808-223-1133.