Just a few days ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, federal investigators announced the record-breaking seizure of more than $21.6 million in fake NFL merchandise.

Counterfeit jerseys, hats, jackets and other souvenirs were nabbed on their way into the United States or as they sat on shelves and streets waiting to be sold.

Counterfeit Super Bowl XLVIII items (Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

The seizures were the result of "Operation Team Player," which began in June. However, an influx of Super Bowl items added to the mess when the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks became the two teams headed for the big game.

"The risks of counterfeit products go beyond damaging the reputation of a name on a label; the U.S. economy and American jobs are at risk with the purchase of seemingly harmless items," said Thomas Winkowski, acting commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "Ultimately, the cost of purchasing a fake product is much greater than the perceived savings."

Many consumers, though, don't realize they're purchasing a counterfeit product, and believe they're just getting a great deal. Agents at CBP said potential buyers should become suspicious if they're getting a $150 item for less than half the price.

Consumers can, perhaps, spot illegitimate items by looking for faulty stitching and lettering, and the presence of an "NFL" label doesn't always mean something.

The operation also resulted in dozens of arrests and the shutdown of illegal websites.