PEOPLE are being urged to keep an eye out for counterfeit cigs and booze over the Easter holidays.
Bosses at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) say illegal traders often see the break as a way to sell smuggled or fake cigarettes and alcohol at car boot sales.
And they say expertly crafted packaging makes it almost impossible to spot whether “bargain priced” tobacco and spirits are real or not.
Of all the large cigarette seizures HMRC made last year, around half were found to be counterfeit.
Stuart Crookshank, assistant director for HMRC, said: “Low cost tobacco and alcohol products can often seem very attractive to people who believe they are buying genuine products at a knock-down price.
“Those involved are not concerned if they are selling to children and underage young people and the illicit trade has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers and the local community.
He added: “We all pay extra to compensate for the money these criminals steal and with the economic challenges being faced by businesses and the public, our focus must remain relentless to deter and disrupt the illegal trade.
“We would encourage anyone who knows of someone selling cheap or duty free cigarettes and tobacco or alcohol to contact us.
“The profits from tobacco and alcohol smuggling fund other criminal activities including drug and people trafficking, and causes real harm in the local community.
“With over £2 billion in unpaid revenue stolen last year from public funds through tobacco smuggling and around £1bn through alcohol smuggling, this crime impacts hard on the UK’s finances – money needed to invest in local services.”
The Customs Hotline is 0800 595000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.