Why Counterfeit Items Inside Your Home Could Pose a Threat to Your Family

Experts put a counterfeit airbag, bike helmet and extension cord to the test.

ByABC News
May 14, 2015, 2:44 PM

— -- During a nearly year-long investigation into the world of counterfeit items, ABC News’ “20/20” exposed some of the methods U.S. Customs and Border Protection say counterfeiters use to smuggle fake goods into the U.S. -- products that can be found inside your home or the family car.

Investigators say many of these same methods are putting your family’s safety at risk.

In Folsom, California, Bob and Tami Larson bought a used car knowing they needed to replace the airbag. They bought an airbag from Igor Borodin, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for one count of trafficking and attempting to traffic in counterfeit airbags bearing the registered trademark of automobile manufacturers and one count of delivering and causing to be delivered hazardous materials to air carriers for transportation in air commerce.

Inside Borodin’s home in Indian Trail, North Carolina, investigators found more than 1,500 fake airbags and $60,000 in cash hidden in the walls.

Authorities say he sold $1.7 million worth of fake airbags and was once a top-rated seller on eBay. Following this incident, eBay said they tightened their selling policies.

“We found out later, a year after we bought them, that the government said that the guy who had replaced or sold us the driver’s side airbag had sold us a bum bag,” Bob Larson told “20/20.”

After replacing the airbag in the Larsons’ car with an authorized dealer replacement, “20/20” tested the fake airbag they had been driving around with at the California Bureau of Automotive Repair.

When set off, the airbag that was in the Larsons’ car sent plastic shrapnel flying as far as about 40 feet away.

Specialized, a bicycle components company, showed “20/20” what happened when a counterfeit helmet, which customers could purchase online, was put to the test.

A tester performed a linear impact test on the counterfeit helmet, which cleaved into two pieces and failed the test. Specialized says their helmets are not supposed to break in half during the linear impact test.

“The real Specialized helmet on the inside has this, which is what we call the roll cage. It’s aramid fiber, which is really strong and keeps the helmet together,” Ben Capron, director of Category Marketing at Specialized, told “20/20.”

At Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a global independent safety science company, Consumer Safety Director John Drengenberg showed “20/20” what could happen if someone used a counterfeit extension cord that didn’t contain the right fire-proof materials.

During a demonstration with a counterfeit extension cord, the fake cord caught on fire when it was plugged in and put under a heavy electrical load. With a substandard fake cord, this could actually happen in a real-life situation in your home, Drengenberg said.