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The big picture: Counterfeit wireless earbuds from China are becoming a big problem, with U.S. customs seizing a shipment of 5,000 fake AirPods, and a further 1,372 fake AirPods Pro across five shipments that were inspected on July 7. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, so far in 2021 the number of counterfeit wireless headphones confiscated at customs has surpassed 360,000 units, which is set to double the figure from just a year prior.
Combined, the fake AirPods and AirPods Pro devices confiscated this month would have been worth some $1.3 million -- if they were the real deal -- which is what the customers who bought these counterfeit products would have expected after all. After inspecting the suspicious shipments on July 7, the Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE) confirmed that the products were in violation of Apple's trademarks and declared the shipments seized just days later.
Like most counterfeit products, the five shipments came from the People's Republic of China – the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) explains online that China remains the primary source for counterfeit and pirated goods.
The popularity of Apple's AirPods is driving a huge surge in counterfeit wireless earbuds. The Information reports that in the first nine months of the 2021 fiscal year, some 360,000 counterfeit wireless headphones with a retail value of $62.2 million were confiscated by U.S. customs.
Compare this with last year's figures, where 295,000 counterfeits with a retail value of $61.7 million were seized throughout the whole of 2020.
While many of us are often on the lookout for a bargain, it's easy to see why counterfeit AirPods are particularly easy to fall for. These fake earbuds can ship with genuine Apple serial numbers and might even be made from real Apple AirPods moulds. Once out the box, the fake AirPods may pair in the same way Apple's genuine ones do.
Clearly, we can all be more vigilant. To that effect, the CBP has an online guide designed to help would-be customers spot counterfeit products.