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American consumers must be hunting for cheap, knock-off shoes. U.S. customs agents certainly are. For the third year in a row, footwear was the top counterfeit product seized by U.S. customs officials, according to a new report released jointly by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Footwear accounted for $102 million worth of the contraband goods — and more than one-third of all fakes that were seized. Rounding out the list’s top five were handbags, wallets, and backpacks; pharmaceuticals; wearing apparel; and consumer electronics and electrical articles.

In a supplemental report of top seized counterfeit products the agencies deemed potentially dangerous, smuggled cigarettes — the subject of an extensive Center investigation — came in second behind pharmaceuticals.

Agents seized $7.9 million worth of bogus smokes in 2008, compared to $583,000 in 2007. Smuggling experts attribute the 14-fold increase to a worldwide boom in counterfeit cigarette production.

Surprisingly, sunglasses also made the list of potentially hazardous knock-offs. U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Erlinda Byrd explained the risk posed by counterfeit sunglasses is that “they may not be impact-resistant and may shatter, injuring the wearer.” Caveat emptor.

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