The booming industry of fakes is fueled by the proliferation of online sales, where scammers create websites, market fake products, collect money and avoid sales taxes, all while remaining virtually anonymous.
Here’s why there’s much more at stake for you and your family than getting poor quality merchandise.
Most of us know about knock-off designer handbags and other leather goods. Louis Vuitton. Hermes. Tory Burch. Name the brand and there’s good chance counterfeiters are whipping up fakes in factories overseas as we speak.
Some people knowingly buy counterfeits to get status symbol bargains and don’t care about the quality sacrifice.
But, if you think buying counterfeits is harmless, the CEO of the International Trademark Association (INTA) has a message:
“If you’re really willing to buy those items, no one is going to be able to stop you,” said Etienne Sanz de Acedo. “What we’re trying to fight is those that want to buy a legitimate product and get a fake.”
Sanz de Acedo and INTA want all consumers to know however, that selling counterfeit merchandise is far from a harmless crime, and counterfeit traffickers put you and your family at risk.
The list of threats is serious: counterfeit airbags that won’t protect you in a crash, fake airplane parts, fake iPhone chargers that can cause deadly electrocution, copycat medications with contaminated contents and no active ingredients, even contaminated baby formula where babies have died.
Investigators say the money Americans spend on or lose to counterfeits is staggering.
In 2007 INTA says counterfeiters took in $250 million. By 2013, the take was up to $461 billion. The projected value of the counterfeit industry by 2022 is between $1.9 and $2.8 trillion.
“It’s affecting the economy. It’s affecting jobs, it might be affecting your dad, your mom’s job. It might be affecting your siblings’ job. And last but not least, recently there’s been a connection between counterfeited goods and criminality,” Sanz de Acedo explained.
In fact, the counterfeit problem is so bad now, that when INTA announced its annual convention, held in Seattle this month, 11,000 people from more than 150 countries showed up.
The global network of brand owners, marketers, retailers, law enforcement, and trademark experts are collaborating about ways we can all wage war against the global counterfeit marketplace that now sells most of its fake merchandise online.
How do you avoid the counterfeit con?
“The first thing you should think about is pricing. If it’s too cheap, it’s too nice, there might be something wrong with it,” Sanz de Acedo said.
- Be wary of drastically low prices.
- Spend time educating yourself about the authentic product so you can better-recognize the subtle differences in a fake.
- When you’re online, pay attention to the domain name. Make sure you’re not on a copycat site using a similar name.
- Look for a domestic phone number for customer service. Being limited to an international number in China could be a red flag.
- Investigate the street address. Use caution if it’s overseas.
- Check customer ratings and reviews.
If you end up with a counterfeit instead of the authentic item you ordered, contact the manufacturer so they know about the deception. Many manufacturers have a way you can reach them online.