The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning consumers be wary of buying knockoff cosmetics and fragrances... not just because they're counterfeit, but because they could be hazardous to your health.

Government studies reportedly show the phony cosmetics often contain toxic chemicals including arsenic, beryllium and cadmium, along with high levels of bacteria. As a result, people can suffer from acne, psoriasis, rashes and eye infections.

Counterfeit cologne and perfumes have been found to have a chemical called DEHP, which the EPA classifies as a probable human carcinogen. Urine has also been discovered in some of these fake products!

The FBI and the National Intellectual Property Rights Center say there has been an increase in these counterfeit goods due in large part to the Internet giving counterfeiters widespread access to customers, and that it's a low-risk crime, because many of these counterfeiters are located outside the U.S.

Here are some ways the FBI says you can spot counterfeit goods:

  • The packaging differs slightly from the authentic brand (might be a different color or different lettering on the product), and/or the product's wrapping appears haphazard.
  • The product is being advertised as a "limited edition" even though the authentic manufacturer doesn't offer it as a limited edition.
  • The price is either slightly or drastically lower.
  • For cosmetics, the product's consistency or texture just doesn't feel or look like the authentic brand.
  • For fragrances, there's something a little off about the scent, and the color of the fluid in the bottle might be different than the original.
  • For both products, they're being sold at non-authorized retailers, including flea markets, mall kiosks, and over the Internet.

The FBI also asks that if you suspect someone purchased or is selling counterfeit items, to submit a tip to the National IPR Center.

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