Homeland Security warns counterfeit airbags being sold in Metro Detroit

Special agent says fake airbags are being sold for way less than the real thing, but cost safety, lives

Published On: Mar 28 2012 10:54:35 PM EDT   Updated On: Mar 29 2012 06:00:09 PM EDT
DETROIT -

Airbags are a Metro Detroit thief's favorite. 

If your airbag is stolen and you need a replacement, it's a safety feature you never want to go cheap on.

A properly deployed airbag should protect you and your loved ones. However, some airbags are doing the opposite -- deploying and putting your life in danger.

"The bag literally explodes, sending shrapnel and dangerous items into the passenger," said Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations in Michigan and Ohio.

The driver and passenger could get hurt or even killed from airbag that has no business being in the car.

"Airbags that are counterfeit are in the Detroit market," said Moskowitz.

It's an urgent warning from Moskowitz. He wants drivers and passengers to know fake airbags are being sold in Metro Detroit.

"There are people out there who knowingly, willfully buy these airbags to trick consumers," he said. "And then there is the innocent consumer who may think they're buying something legitimate. Turns out they are not."

Many of the faulty airbags can be bought online for just a couple hundred dollars. Moskowitz said a real airbag is priced closer to $1,000.

"We know times are tough and people are looking to do it yourself, whether it's your home or your car," he said.

However, federal agents say this is one do-it-yourself project car owners may want to reconsider.

"These counterfeit products either won't deflate when they need to or they deflate or inflate with such force that it becomes, they become projectile," said Moskowitz. And people can get injured by the explosion that occurs."

How do you protect yourself from fake airbags?

Experts say if you have to replace an airbag you should buy from a reputable, authorized source or a licensed installer.

Moskowitz has tips for used car buyers.

"It's important that if someone is getting repair work done or is buying something like a salvaged vehicle, that you exercise your rights and demand to see documentations, invoices, receipts, showing the products that were put into the car," he said.

Some counterfeit goods are difficult to spot but there can be some tell-tale signs you're buying a fake.

"If you actually just examine them, you'll see that words are spelled incorrectly, that there's inconsistencies," said Moskowitz. "That things just don't look right."

Federal agents with Homeland Security have made arrests and seized several of the counterfeit airbags before any were installed. The problem is the counterfeit bags can enter America in boxes he siz of toaster ovens which makes it easy to be slipped into the country unnoticed.

Moskowitz wants you to know his agents are trying to get them off the streets but you have to be aware and involved, too. You need to know what is being installed in your car.

"When you're talking about things that can save your life or end it, you need to be careful," he said.

In some cases around the country, actual airbags are being replaced with counterfeit products which are nothing more than molded styrofoam.