Fake championship rings worth $495,000 intercepted in Indianapolis


INDIANAPOLIS — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Indianapolis seized a shipment last week containing hundreds of counterfeit championship sports rings.

The shipment, which had 330 fake rings, was destined for a store in Texas.

The parcel was flagged for inspection due to irregularities in the shipment and routing information, officials said.

The counterfeit rings were for a mix of MLB, NBA, NFL and college football teams:

Los Angeles Lakers (117), Dallas Cowboys (73), Pittsburg Steelers (53), New England Patriots (17), Dallas Mavericks (9), Chicago Bulls (10), Kansas City Chiefs (9), Chicago Bears (10), Philadelphia Eagles (3), St. Louis Cardinals (10), NY Yankees (9), and Texas A&M (10).

The rings were sent to an import specialist for evaluation. The specialist determined the rings were packaged poorly and had a plastic feel.

Had the rings been real, they would have reportedly been worth $495,000.

Experts say counterfeit scams have become more common, but there are things that can be done to avoid falling victim.

“Shipments like these prey on the many sports fans across the nation who may be duped into paying high prices for garbage,” said Kerry Carter, acting port director-Indianapolis. “I’m extremely proud of these officers’ determination in stopping illicit shipments and our commitment to protecting the American economy.”

“We protect a lot of intellectual property rights that are coming into the United States,” said chief customs officer Tim Hubbard.

Yet despite the efforts of Hubbard and his coworkers, the Better Business Bureau claims with the rise of online commerce, 38% of all scam reports in 2020 were fraudulent online merchandise, although obviously not all sports related.

According to the BBB ScamTracker, online purchases are the most common scams for people between the ages 18 and 54.

“It is by far the most prevalent scam right now,” said Tim Maniscalo with the BBB.

Maniscalo says victims who pay for counterfeit items online will almost never get their money back.

“Almost all these websites originate outside the country, so as soon as you pay, it’s gone and almost impossible for law enforcement to get it back,” Maniscalo explained.

He advises shoppers to confirm the authenticity of websites before they agree to buy.

“Whenever you go to a website, look for the letters https. ‘S’ is the important letter. Also look for the lock icon. Those give you a little more security,” said Maniscalo.

Scams involving sports memorabilia is also a growing trend.

COVID-19 may have escalated the rate of online scams. The BBB estimates 57% of people did more online shopping because of the pandemic.

“Authenticated memorabilia is the key to making sure people are buying it the right way. There are a lot of scammers in our industry, more than we’ve seen in 30 or 40 years,” said Andy Albert.

Andy owns Indy Card Exchange and says he has to break the bad news to customers on a regular basis that they may have fallen victim to bogus collectables.

“I see a fake Michael Jordan rookie about once a week and have to tell people the bad news that it’s not an authentic Michael Jordan rookie,” said Albert.

When it comes to ensuring items are legit, customers need to make sure the items are authenticated by one of a handful of reputable companies.

“Authenticate it. Authenticate it. Authenticate it. That’s what we always tell people,” said Albert.

CBP urges anyone with information about trademark or copyright infringement to file a report with the e-Allegations Online Trade Violation Reporting System or call 1-800-BE-ALERT.

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