Millions of people will come across gifts that are far more unpleasant than a lump of coal. With the global trade of counterfeit goods rising to more than half a trillion dollars, the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC) and Crime Stoppers International (CSI) are issuing tips to help holiday shoppers identify fake goods and offering resources to help them report the crime. These counterfeit products are in all corners of the Internet, and buyers may find it difficult to differentiate between real and fake items.
“Online shopping is convenient, but the Internet is rife with illegitimate merchants looking to take advantage of shoppers’ good cheer,” acknowledged IACC President Bob Barchiesi. “These criminals hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and use sophisticated tactics to dupe their victims into buying fakes.”
To help consumers identify fakes, the IACC recommends following the “3 P’s” rule. Consumers should look at:
- Price. If the price is too good to be true, then it is most likely a counterfeit.
- Packaging. Stay away from products that are shipped without packaging or are packaged poorly. If it does come in a package, look out for misspellings, blurry logos, or smudged ink.
- Place. Be wary of which sites you shop from. Fake websites are designed to look professionally made by mimicking the design and typography of the real brand. Always fact-check the “FAQ” or “About Us” tabs for inconsistencies, and make sure there is an acceptable return policy.
Should a shopper suspect their item is fake, the IACC recommends contacting the seller or e-commerce platform, or reporting it (for instance, if you’re in the US, to Crime Stoppers International or the National IPR Coordination Center).
“We have to fight fire with fire,” commented acting CEO of CSI, Devrol Dupigny. “Criminal networks are using the latest technologies available to perpetrate crimes online, so it is incumbent on organizations such as the IACC, CSI and others to continuously make the public aware of new trends and provide them with readily available tools to act and report.”
Counterfeiters manufacture products with cheap, substandard, and dangerous components. Fake items such as toys may contain lead. Bogus beauty and skin products may contain hazardous chemicals such as arsenic. These can cause serious harm to people who come into contact with them, especially children.
“Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. We’ve seen far too many cases of people seeking medical help as a result of using or ingesting counterfeit products,” said Mr. Barchiesi. “We hope people will stay vigilant while shopping online and have a safe and joyous holiday season, free from counterfeits.”