A counterfeit item is a product that is sold as authentic, but is in actual fact a fake. These products mislead consumers and are sold using the intellectual property of well-known brands without the brand's authorisation. The global sale of these products is on the increase. The boom in online shopping is making it harder to recognise these copies and since counterfeits are produced illegally, they are often not manufactured to comply with relevant safety standards.
Types of counterfeit goods include:
- Electrical items
- Pirate DVDs, CDs, computer software, games and pharmaceuticals
The counterfeit industry generates billions each year and luxury handbag brands are among the most noteworthy.
How to spot a counterfeit product
The City of London Police outline the following tips to help consumers avoid purchasing a counterfeit item:
- Trust your instincts – if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Legitimate designer items are rarely discounted, so do not rush and be fooled into believing you are getting a good deal.
- Check the spelling and grammar on the website and of the URL – often the people behind these sites do not pay a lot of attention or care to this detail. Fraudsters may also try to deceive you by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address.
- Look to see where the trader is based and whether they provide a postal address – just because the web address has ‘UK’ do not assume the seller is based in the UK. If there is no address supplied or there is just a PO Box or email, be wary.
- Only deal with reputable sellers - only use sites you know or ones that have been recommended to you. If you have not bought from the seller before, do your research and check online reviews. People will often turn to forums and blogs to warn others of fake sites. If you are buying an item online you can check to see if the website is a legitimate stockist by visiting here.
- Ensure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment.
- Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date. Regularly update your internet browser when a new patch-security update is released.
- Don’t access links in unsolicited emails, always type in the website address or use a search engine to find a site.
- Ask the trader if there is a returns policy or guarantee. Most rogue traders will not offer this.
- If you are not sure whether the items are genuine, do not enter your payment details – it is not worth the risk.
- Watch out for pop-ups appearing asking you to confirm your card details before you are on the payment stage. Never enter your PIN online.
The risks associated with counterfeit products
Fake goods are often bad quality and in most cases unsafe. Counterfeit electrical goods are not put through the same vigorous safety checks as legitimate items and are often very dangerous. Fake cosmetics and fragrances have been found to contain toxic levels of chemicals and unpleasant substances, such as arsenic, mercury and even urine, that could seriously harm your health.
Consumers also need to be aware that by accessing websites like this they are running the risk of their personal details being compromised and being used for other fraudulent scams, as well as exposing their computer to malware and viruses.
The money you have spent may end up funding organised crime or contributing to job losses because genuine manufacturers are unable to match prices charged by rogue traders.