What are counterfeit goods?
Counterfeit goods are fake items deliberately made to look genuine. These can range from clothes, bags, watches, perfume, cosmetics and electrical items as well as pirate DVDs, CDs, computer software and games.
Although the crime of counterfeiting is not new, the sale of fake goods is increasing. More counterfeit items are now being sold online and spotting copies is becoming much harder.
More and more people are now prepared to knowingly buy fake items; however there are serious risks involved with counterfeit goods.
Why you should avoid buying counterfeit goods
There are many risks involved with buying fake goods:
Breaking the law
It is a criminal offence to try to financially gain by using a trademark without the owner’s permission.
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 the exposing their computer to malware and viruses.
Funding organised crime
Many fraudsters will use the proceeds from selling counterfeit goods to fund other types of serious organised crime
Affecting genuine businesses and the economy
Buying fake goods affects legitimate businesses as counterfeit sales drive the profit away from the genuine manufacturer which could result in job losses and in turn affecting the economy.
Top tips to help you avoid buying counterfeit goods
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 www.brand-i.org
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.
What to do if you are a victim of counterfeit fraud
If you purchased an item you believed to be genuine but now believe it may be counterfeit you can report it to Action Fraud or call 0300 123 2040.
You can also contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06 for advice or visit the Citizens Advice website for more information.
Your local Trading Standards office can also give you advice.
What to do if you believe someone is selling counterfeit items
If you suspect someone to be involved in the sale or trade of counterfeit items you can report this anonymously to Crimestoppers.
Other useful links
You can find out more information about counterfeit goods via the links below:
Action Fraud – Counterfeit goods
Know the net – How to a spot fake website
Trading Standards – Consumer advice
Citizens Advice – Counterfeit goods information