Fake products, unlicensed retailers pose serious health risk

Scams

Two recent busts on Oahu bring light to what could be a very serious risk for those looking to change their appearance on the cheap.

Mike Carney, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says one of the operations involved cosmetic contact lenses.

“They’re colored lenses. They provide special effects. They’re very popular with the kids,” Carney said.

They’re also illegal if sold in Hawaii by anyone other than a licensed eye care professional.

According to FDA.gov: “They are not cosmetics or over-the-counter merchandise. They are medical devices regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Places that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them over-the-counter, without a prescription, are breaking the law.”

So where are they being sold? You might be surprised. Homeland Security Investigations recently seized thousands of them from a mall kiosk right here on Oahu. It started with a tip from the public.

“Parents should be aware if kids are putting things in their eyes that were not dispensed or obtained from a licensed optician. They are in serious danger of ruining their vision,” Carney said.

Damage could involve corneal abrasions, eye infections, and in some cases, blindness.

So far there have been no reported cases of eye injuries caused by the contact lenses here in Hawaii, but there have been confirmed cases on the mainland.

“If consumers are going to a place that doesn’t regularly sell prescription eyewear, then there should be a concern about what they’re purchasing,” Carney said.

In a second incident, a woman was arrested and is being investigated for dispensing fake Botox without a proper license.

“It really highlights the risks that people are taking to save a few dollars and not go to a medical, licensed physician, or licensed optician or actually buying the legitimate goods,” Carney said.

Investigators look into tips from the public. If you’d like to report a possible product-related crime, call Homeland Security Investigation’s tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or submit an online tip here.

You can also contact the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Regulated Industries Complaints Office.

If you have a consumer concern or are interested in becoming an Action Line volunteer, give us a call at 591-0222 weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or send an email to actionline@khon2.com.

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