Border Officers Seize 30,000 ‘Made-in-China’ Necklaces Claiming Protection From COVID-19

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers recently seized 30,000 counterfeit Chinese-made necklaces that claimed to protect wearers from COVID-19.

The agents described the necklaces as similar to lanyards with a blue parcel on them. The packets are filled with chlorine dioxide said to “create an anti-bacterial cloud” that keeps the virus away.

Despite what the devices boast to achieve, prolonged exposure to chlorine dioxide can pose health and safety risks. Side effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include breathing difficulties and irritation.

Border officials discovered the necklaces in a tractor-trailer bound for Mexico at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, Arizona, the CBP announced in a May 27 press release. The shipment contained three pallets of necklaces, which the CBP had seized for violating federal pesticide laws.

CBP’s Pharmaceuticals Centers for Excellence and Expertise said the necklaces carry a total value of $479,700, or around $16 each. The agency also seized merchandise items with counterfeit trademarks from the trailer, including T-shirts, footwear, and textiles, which they estimate are worth around $24,000.

The incident took place on April 16, although the agency did not make it public until Thursday.

On the necklaces’ packaging were words such as “virus shut out”—the name of the necklace, “block viruses & bacteria,” and instructions to “wear it around the neck to block bacteria.”

"Virus Shut Out" products
A shipment of the harmful “Virus Shut Out” products, which are marketed to protect against COVID-19 and contain the hazardous pesticide Chlorine Dioxide, arrive in Louisville, Kentucky, from Hong Kong in September 2020. (CBP)

The back of the product also contained 16 warnings. Wearers should not put it in their underwear to avoid direct skin contact, nor should they use it while sleeping, it said.

It noted that the “effectiveness of this product is subject to conditions of usage,” and cautioned individuals to “be careful with your clothes” as “this product has the function of bleaching.”

The manufacturer of the product is Yiwu Haoyi Biotechnology Co. Ltd., from Yiwu City of Zhejiang, a coastal province in southeastern China and a major manufacturing hub in the country. The company does not appear to have a website either in Chinese or English.

China has been a top source of fake goods coming into the U.S. market. Department of Homeland Security data showed that the CBP made 27,599 seizures of counterfeit items in the 2019 fiscal year, of which 48 percent originated from China, followed by 35 percent from Hong Kong.

counterfeit masks
Customs and Border Protection noted that this counterfeit mask from China, seized on April 7, 2021, infringes on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) trademark. (CBP)

China accounted for about 51 percent of counterfeit or substandard COVID-19 related products from October 2019 to Sept. 30 last year. This includes over 12.7 million masks and more than 177,000 unapproved virus test kits.

Over the past two months, the CBP also seized fake currencies totaling $685,000 from China, as well as over 171,000 fraudulent Chinese N95 masks heading to New York state.

The CBP warns that phony products tend to have inferior quality. “Peeling labels, low-quality ink or printing errors on the packaging, and loosely packed items in the box can be signs that the product you purchased may not be legitimate,” it said.

For apparel and handbags, consumers may tell a fake one from genuine by its poor stitching and “improperly sized or designed logos,” while counterfeit electronics often have a short battery life and regular overheating, the CBP said.

The simple rule of thumb, it added, is to remember that “if the price of a product seems too good to be true, it probably is.”


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