LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Authorities warned the public Tuesday about buying potential counterfeit goods this Christmas season.

KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials and local consumer advocates can hurt more than just your pocketbook.

Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers was joined by local brand owners to announce an anti-counterfeiting initiative with Los Angeles Regional Crime Stoppers targeting products ranging from pharmaceuticals and batteries to contact lenses and laundry detergent.

“They can make people very ill and can even kill,” Rogers said.

The California State Board of Equalization estimated that fake designer clothes, computers, drugs and other items coming through California`s seaports drain about $8 billion each year in tax revenue from state coffers.

Counterfeit products usually arrive through Southern California ports and are sold by vendors at flea markets, independent shops, swap meets and online, according to officials.

As part of the new initiative – which is aimed at providing communities with the means to anonymously report counterfeiting and piracy – 12 new anti-counterfeiting billboards are set to go up throughout Los Angeles County in the cities of Carson, Compton, South El Monte, South Gate, Vernon, Bassett and Santa Fe Springs, Sheriff’s officials said.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Janis Munson said some of the counterfeit goods are so slick, consumers may have a really hard time knowing what’s real and what’s not.

“Obviously, the big key is the price…if you’re buying something that’s just too good to be true, then it’s obviously not the real thing,” Munson said. “And if you’re buying it in some back alley or in some seedy market, then the true brand owner isn’t going to be selling it there.

“A Louis Vuitton isn’t going to be sold out of the trunk of a car,” she added.

Since 2010, the Sheriff’s Counterfeiting and Piracy Enforcement Team has seized approximately $320 million in knockoff designer products and arrested more than 200 suspected smugglers and counterfeiters.

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