Do you shop online? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Depending on which statistics you believe, anywhere from 69 to 96% of Americans make regular purchases online.
Online shopping can be done from just about anywhere with any connected device – it’s fast, easy, and convenient. But have you ever considered that it could also be dangerous? Well, it can. There are many risks associated with online shopping, and buyers should beware of things like identity theft, fake reviews, and counterfeit goods.
Let’s talk about counterfeits. So, what’s the big deal if you buy a fake designer handbag because it’s so much cheaper than the real thing? It’s not hurting anyone, right? Wrong! Counterfeits don’t only impact the profits of big businesses; they negatively impact consumers and society in many ways. Maybe you’ve never considered that:
Counterfeiters often have connections to organized crime and other criminal activities.
The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC), a non-profit organization devoted solely to combating product counterfeiting and piracy, has found clear links between the profits from counterfeit sales and the funding of organized crime, drug trafficking, and even terrorist activity. As if that’s not enough, counterfeiters don’t pay their employees fair wages or benefits, have poor working conditions, and often use forced or child labor.
Trade in pirated and counterfeit goods degrades genuine economic activity.
The economic impact of counterfeit goods is a global problem that affects everyone. A report extending the findings of a study done by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in cooperation with the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) estimates that the negative impact of counterfeiting and piracy are projected to drain $4.2 trillion from the global economy and put 5.4 million legitimate jobs at risk by 2022.
Counterfeit products can pose serious health concerns.
Think about cosmetics and other skincare products, pharmaceuticals, baby products, car parts, electronics – and the list goes on. The ingredients and materials used by criminals who are out to make a quick buck are not subject to the safety standards or quality control measures used by legitimate manufacturers of these products. If you don’t believe it, check out this segment of the Dr. Oz Show demonstrating the risks of counterfeit beauty products.
Now that you know how dangerous counterfeits can be, how can you protect yourself from becoming a victim of counterfeit products and not contribute to the bank accounts of these criminals?
Check the company’s website – many publish tips and include images to help you spot fakes. Compare the features of the product you purchased with the images on the company’s website. Many counterfeits are easily identified by poor quality or the presence of obvious errors. Here are some things to look for:
- Typographical, grammatical, or spacing errors on marketplace listings, product packaging, or package inserts and instructions
- Poor quality print and packaging or packaging that’s missing altogether
- Obviously inferior quality of the product itself; bad stitching, colors that look off, flimsy materials, etc.
- Incorrect or misplaced logos
- Packages shipped to you from China or Hong Kong when you expected a domestic shipment
- Highly discounted prices; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is
Buy from reputable resellers.
Counterfeits can be sold anywhere but buying from shady websites or unknown marketplace sellers increases your risk of getting counterfeit. Many company websites will include a list of legitimate distribution channels. Always buy from authorized dealers.
If you suspect you’ve purchased a counterfeit product, report it to the company. Brand owners are extremely interested in gathering data about suspect and counterfeit products in the marketplace. Many have teams of people working full-time to protect their intellectual property (trademarks, patents, and copyrights), their reputation, and you – their customers.
The bottom line — counterfeits are bad for you, bad for businesses, and bad for society. Do what you can to protect yourself by being an informed and vigilant consumer. Check out our next blog post to learn more about what companies can, and in many cases, are doing to protect you too!
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