How Counterfeit Items Could Be Putting You and Your Family at Risk

Part 5: U.S. Customs and Border Protection share counterfeiter tricks of the trade they've seen used.
9:09 | 05/16/15

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Transcript for How Counterfeit Items Could Be Putting You and Your Family at Risk
"20/20" continues, with David Muir. Reporter: Tonight, "20/20" takes you to one of several secret locations all over this country. Last year, over 23,000 seizures. Reporter: Where boxes they deem suspicious are pulled off planes, trains, cargo ships, and brought here where customs and border protection agents are ready. "20/20" is allowed in. David. Reporter: Nice to meet you. Inside this building in Newark, New Jersey. 30 minutes outside New York City, we see them. We're about to fly you right over the mountain of boxes. Stacked four, five boxes high. Inside, investigators say countless counterfeits. As I stand here, I mean, look at the boxes. I mean, it almost seems overwhelming. Well over 25 million every year. Reporter: But right here tonight, you're about to see the tricks revealed. Car parts. Smart phones. Your clothing. Right down to the real ingredients in that counterfeit make-up. Many of these products end up in medicine cabinets in homes across America. Exactly right, David. Reporter: This looks exactly like the crest you'd get at the supermarket. At a glance it looks like the real thing, but it's counterfeit. We have found trace quantities of antifreeze. Reporter: Where is this toothpaste coming from? China. Reporter: And it's money on American products going straight to the Chinese. Exactly, right. Reporter: And tonight, the number one piece of advice they say, if you're buying toothpaste or another product at a deep, deep discount then you should always beware. Then he shows us the "Made in America" jeans. So these are supposed to be "True religion?" Yes. Reporter: These are the real thing? No, these are not. From China. Reporter: And look at the trick revealed with these boots. Non-descript, generic brand, mega gear. Reporter: But we notice something. On the sole of the boot, a rubber piece added to hide something. This one piece affixed right here, but if you peel that away, you'll see that it has the timberland brand underneath. Reporter: They were just hoping to get it here, rip off that piece of rubber, and sell it as the real thing. So once they arrive at the store, they can take this off? Exactly. Reporter: And sell it as a timberland boot. The agents are going box by box. They allow us to start opening, too. I mean, this is hours of them opening up boxes here. It is. Reporter: And you don't know what chemicals have been used in the making of this product? Exactly. Reporter: Meantime tonight, 1,200 miles away in a building in Miami, they're ripping through boxes too, and they notice something. It's empty? Yeah, it's empty. Reporter: Boxes for car parts shipped with nothing in them, and that's the point. This is a trick box. Sometimes they'll do that, and then send the actual pieces separate. Reporter: And another trick revealed as our cameras roll. Look at the smartphones. The fake trademark they were hoping to hide from border patrol. So I'm going to go ahead and peel it off, and that's the brand name they're trying to hide. Reporter: Underneath the black tape, authorities say the fake Samsung trademark. And where do these knock-offs end up? Investigators say stores like the one they're about to bust, as our cameras roll. Homeland security agents on the move. We're in New York City's little Italy neighborhood. Right away, investigators see counterfeit ugg boots, and a secret room hidden by scarves. Filled with counterfeit Michael kors and Tory Burch bags. The more expensive fakes where you might least expect them. The bathroom. The fake Chanel bags hanging right over the toilet, and when the counterfeit bags come in, investigators say the counterfeit logo isn't even on them. They snap it on and make the sale. Chanel. They just pop off the little metal things on somebody's handbags and this makes them counterfeit. Reporter: In Los Angeles, a patch sewn on to fool the border agents. They were hiding a trademark north face mark. Reporter: A Louis Vuitton bag. Wrapped in a disguise. And another trick. It looks like a no name brand headphone. Reporter: Watch as he pulls the box of fake beats headphones right out of the other box. But handbags and headphones are one thing, helmets are another. Putting your family at risk. Watch as they put the counterfeit helmet to the test. It was cleaved into two pieces, which is a failure for the test. Reporter: The real helmet is not supposed to slice in half. The real specialized helmet on the inside has this. It's really strong. Reporter: And perhaps more alarming than the bike helmet, what's going into your family car. Hi, David, we're the larsons from Folsom, California. I'm bob, this is my wife, Tami. Reporter: The larsons, reaching out to "20/20" and standing in front of their used car they bought, knowing they needed to replace the airbag. But what they didn't know was that the airbag they bought online was from this guy. The man who owned this home in Indian trail, North Carolina. Who tonight is behind bars. The man accused of selling fake car parts. Reporter: Look at what investigators say they found in igor borehdin's home. More than 1,500 fake airbags. $60,000 in cash hidden in the walls. Authorities say he sold $1.7 million dollars worth on Ebay, calling himself "Airbag pros." Labeled a "Top-rated" seller. Ebay are telling us tonight that they have since tightened their selling policies. We found later, the guy who had sold us the driver's side airbag had sold us a bum bag. Reporter: We offered to tow the larsons' car to an authorized dealer to have their airbag replaced with an authorized Honda replacement. And we're about to test the airbag they've been riding around with. First, they set off a real airbag. And now the airbag that was in the larsons' car. 2, 1, wow! Shrapnel. Shrapnel, a lot of shrapnel. You would have had a face full of plastic. We have a piece of the air bag cover over here. This is probably about 40 feet from the actual explosion of the airbag. Can you imagine this being in the driver's face of a car? Reporter: And one last danger tonight. Perhaps already on your face. One we've been following for months now. Our team first heading to this discount store, not unlike so many across America. This one right in the heart of New York City, out to buy Mac cosmetics. You guys have good stuff. Reporter: And we take it to the lab. The "20/20" test. Comparing it to the real thing. Dr. Whitney Bowe, a dermatologist, is waiting inside. About to take us through the results. So this is the Mac that we tested? Exactly. Reporter: What did you find? We start with the lead. So the lead was at least five times higher than what you should be allowed? It was an order of magnitude higher than where we should be. Reporter: And then the copper. And think about this number. The fda limit on copper is 100 parts per million, and in the makeup tested, more than 2,000 parts per million. So in this test there is so much copper that there's no question in your mind there is copper flowing through the blood stream if you use this product. There is free copper flowing through the bloodstream, hurting kidneys, and hurting the liver. Reporter: But the most frightening discovery in that makeup was the beryllium, a category one carcinogen. Beryllium can be a cancer causer. Beryllium is a known carcinogen. Reporter: So we go back to where we bought it. Armed with the results of that makeup test, we're back at that New York City store where one of our producers bought the makeup. I'm with "20/20" and we're rolling right now. Our producer remembers this woman selling the makeup. Is this supposed to be real? I don't know. Reporter: We asked her, does she remember selling the so-called Mac product to us? You guys have good stuff. Reporter: Do you remember working with her? I don't know. Reporter: Do you remember her face? I bought this from you, remember? Reporter: And how does she explain the test results? It's lead, copper, beryllium. These are cancer causing agents. Oh. Reporter: And we reveal to her what estee lauder, the maker of Mac, told us about this counterfeit product. Mac told us this is not the real thing. They told us they've never even sold eye shadow in a box like this. I don't know, I don't have any idea. Can I see the paper? Oh, yeah. Reporter: When you see these test results, do you feel badly? Yes, of course. Reporter: You feel badly about it? Mm-hmm, yeah, of course. Reporter: And tonight, months after that moment, after that worker told us she felt bad, we go back to see if there are any Mac cosmetics on those shelves. The same saleswoman is talking to our producer. Do you have any brand names or anything? Reporter: No brand names, no counterfeit Mac cosmetics. One small victory for the army of counterfeit investigators who work this every single day. But across the country tonight, back in Los Angeles, where we saw firsthand all of that prescription medication, counterfeit medicine sold in plain sight. We go back nine months after our first visit. Back up those stairs, right up to that apartment door. Hi, how are you? Reporter: Remember, this was where investigators made those arrests, saying they were hiding counterfeit medication in the fish. And I begin by asking, do they have any medicine? They tell us, no medicine here. I then point to all of the fish. Boxes and boxes of it. No, my son, she says. Reporter: And while they tell us there's no medicine, we are overwhelmed again by the smell of fish. Oh, can you smell the stench? Reporter: Yeah, you can smell it. Right, right. Reporter: And investigators

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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