Counterfeiting and Piracy: The New York City Tourist Attraction

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While I have been to New York City many times on business, I have never really been for a fun visit, to take in the whole New York City/Manhattan experience.   I had such a wonderful time. I even got to meet Ivana Trump at the airport.

In January of this year I spent a few days in this wonderful city mostly touring the attraction sites.   Rather than taking taxi cabs everywhere I bought day passes on the tour buses and used that for my mode of transportation to get around the city.  

 I was completely fascinated (or should I say disturbed) that the bus tour guides, when talking about Canal Street, went out of their way to tell  everyone that Canal Street was a great place to buy counterfeit watches, purses and videos.   I couldn’t believe how out in the open the comment was, virtually every time I rode the bus.  In fact, all the tour guides made mention of a large basement-type warehouse that was the biggest on the street, filled with fake products.

My visit to Canal street was everything I expected it to be, but worse.   Tiny shops with backrooms full of fake Gucci, Coach and Fendi purses.  If you wanted a fake watch all you had to do was ask.   Either the watch vendor had them hidden or he could merely ask someone to bring them over in a canvas bag.   Everything fake was for the asking and buying.

While I can spot a fake Rolex and Gucci watch, the Breitling Bentley watches were good copies and were selling like hot cakes.   Women were lining up to get in the back rooms to look at purses, so clearly business was good for every vendor.

There had to be at least 100 people walking around with canvas bags selling watches, sun glasses and DVDs.  At the time I visited, the movie American Gangster was still in the theatres.  You could have bought an illegal copy of the DVD for $5.00 out of a canvas bag.

In only two other countries have I ever seen street vendor counterfeiting and piracy this bad; Japan and Thailand.  

When I got back to Toronto I was talking about the experience for weeks to people in my business.   It was like New York had given up and Canal Street Counterfeiting was the new tourist attraction.

I’ve worked for many manufactures and distributors (and their legal counsel) who have fallen victim to counterfeiting, piracy, and copyright violations.  Companies who have had to close factories and offices, and lay off staff.  Even legitimate retailers in the same industry are affected – unable to compete with these fakes.   While consumers look for fake bargains many legitimate companies suffer.

The money from this crime stays undergound, just like drug money.  It remains tax free to these vendors and will very often remain in the crime element.  Very often the products themselves are made in hidden sweat shops in Asia.

The PI industry has been fundamental in fighting counterfeiting and piracy and will continue to be.  Every company that has fallen victim has either directly or indirectly retained a PI firm to assist in the problem.    PIs usually act for the manufacture or their legal counsel.  They identify who the vendor is by working under the pretext of being a customer.  They buy products and then ultimately swear an affidavit to get the civil sheriff out to seize the goods. 

In the early to mid ’90s the streets of Toronto had the same problem.  Vendors were everywhere on the streets selling counterfeit products.    But back then it was very much a civil problem.  The police only got involved to keep the peace during the civil seizures of products.  They rarely laid criminal charges on the vendors.   

It was primarily up to the manufactures themselves to hire lawyers and private investigators to seek out the street vendors and  find the bulk of the counterfeit product.  Once the vendor had been identified  the necessary paperwork had to be filed so the civil court Sheriff could go out and do a seizure, and serve a law suit on the vendor.

Even more frustrating for the manufacturer was the fact that the Sheriff was only allowed to seize goods on behalf of the manufacturer named in the order.   This meant that if the Sheriff was acting for only one watch manufacturer (for example) he could only seize that one brand name.  All other fake brand names would remain unseized.  It was ridiculous.

Manufacturers had to team up with the same law firm so the civil Sheriff could raid the vendor and take just about everything in one raid.

While the manufacturers continue to try and sue these vendors, the civil judgments are worthless.  How do you  collect from a vendor working for cash?  There is simply no financial recovery.

The city of Toronto has pretty much cleaned up the problem from vendors selling counterfeit products in the open.  But many products can still be found in Toronto’s China Town. All you have to do is ask.  

It would seem that today, public law enforcement has become more involved in charging and prosecuting manufacturers and sellers of counterfeit products.   It is certainly not to the satisfaction of most victims and their associations who continue to fight the problem.

As long as there is no law in place that prevents the consumer from buying the fake products the problem will never be resolved.  

About a month after my trip I read that the New York Mayor’s office had raided dozens of storefronts on Canal Street.  They seized counterfeit goods with an estimated street value of more than $1 million.

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, obtained a temporary restraining order to shut down the storefronts.  Forty-two undercover purchases were made in various storefronts. The investigation uncovered counterfeits of such brands as Coach, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Prada, Rolex, Fendi, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Dora the Explorer and Oakley.   

While I applaud the raid, I wonder – how long will it be until they all come back?   Will there ever be a law that will stop people from buying the fake stuff in the first place?    Will we ever see a tourist held up at customs because he or she was found to possess a fake watch, purse, or a pair of sunglasses ? 

It’s doubtful !

Advertisements vs Your Privacy – By a Private Investigator

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By Private Investigator – Kevin D. Bousquet


While I admit to joining the klan of I find the site very dangerous in the way of personal privacy and people should be very concerned and warned.  

I have written articles and even did a tv show on how impersonation is out of control. People who have had their lives destroyed because someone got a hold of their personal information and applied for credit in their name.

I interviewed a lady on my tv show who woke up one morning to a collection agency phone call.  She discovered that someone impersonated her identity and managed to purchase two houses in her name in Gretzky’s home town of Brantford Ontario.   She had no idea that someone had used her identity by applying for credit in her name.    It took  years for her to get her life back.

Yet people who register on facebook post their name and their date of birth right out in the open for anyone to see. 

Many on facebook will argue they use their privacy settings and only close friends see personal information.  This is great for those who actually use their privacy settings.  

There are  networks after networks of interest groups that allow people who you may not directly know to see your personal information.  They are allowed to see it because your privacy settings have allowed people in the same network to see your personal data.   

Many assume because they have an interest in common with someone, skiing, music, church, city events that a person in that network is not going to compromise their data.  Do you really know everyone in your network? 

Yet bigger city networks like “Toronto” or joining a network where in the city where you reside can be a great place for would be fraudsters to take your personal information and apply for credit.   

Your Name & Date of Birth is all it takes 

People need to realise that all it takes is your name and date of birth to steal your identity.

Facebook A Great Place To Harvest  

The word to be aware of is “harvesting”.  Right now I can go on facebook and within less that an hour I can harvest names and dates of birth of dozens after dozens of people.  If I really tried I could probaby average 100 names and dates of birth in an hour.   People who I don’t know,  who are not in any network.   

Personal data out in the open makes you vulnerable to attack by fraudsters to get your data to apply for credit in your name.   Problem is people don’t realise just how bad the problem is.  There is no recourse, you’re on your own trying to clean up your life if you’re impersonated.   Don’t expect the police to do it for you and don’t expect that the fraudster will actually get caught.   Act proactive rather then reacting to a crisis later.   

Impersonation fraud is the biggest growing crime on a world wide level.   If you have a home you could also be a victim of mortgage fraud or have your house sold right from under you with the aid of the data you gave up on


Teenagers and children are the best targets.  Kids who have not yet established credit ratings.  A nice clean name, date of birth and address is all a fraudster needs to start applying for credit in your child’s name.  

The Federal Trade Commission just did a warning to the public that over 400,000 children and have already had their identity stolen and many don’t even know it yet. This will include teenagers.



If your address is posted all the better.   If they get a hold of your Social Insurance Number or Social Security Number you’re done like dinner you may never get your life back. 

You’ll spend years trying to clean up your credit rating convincing creditors and collection agencies that you’re you and not the fraudster who managed to swindle thousands from banks and credit agencies using your name.  


There was just a news article recently where a victim of impersonation was reported dead to the government, yet he was alive and well.  He spent months just trying to convince the government he was not dead and his problems continue.  

You could find the IRS or Revenue Canada knocking on your door or even the police or perhaps immigration. 

The answers to virtually all verification questions asked by a bank or credit agency to prove you are you can be answered on 

Let’s start with the most common question that all credit card companies ask to verify you? “What’s your mother’s maiden name”?   Your dog’s name, where did you attend school.  Your previous addresses.   Take a look at the verification questions used by web based email services like when you sign up.   Many of these questions could be answered by looking on

There may be those who may want to use your name and date of birth to commit a crime or get a job when they don’t have status to work in the country.   

Ask yourself could  someone easily recreate your resume from facebook depending on the information you posted? 

 I am fascinated by those who post their resume.  Where you went to school, what degrees you have, your past jobs, your marital status.  Your interests, where you volunteer, you associations and degrees.  Even your religious beliefs.

What about child predators seeking to hurt and exploit children.   People continue to  post pictures of their children, some have posted where they go to school or daycare and even what time they are picked up.  Your toddler could even be at risk.

The security risks to openly

posted personal data are endless.

If you give away too much personal information your jugglar vein is exposed waiting for the kill.  If you’re impersonated there are only two things in the world that can prove you’re you.  Your DNA and your fingerprints.  You’ll spend a lifetime trying to get your life back.

Be careful what personal information you give up on any website.


Kevin Bousquet is a Private Investigator and President of Corpa Investigation a 17 year old firm specialising in fraud investigation. 


He has his own tv show on Persona Cable which can be seen on the internet at