Santa isn’t the only one making a list this year. Counterfeiters are rounding up the holiday season’s most popular gift ideas – from toys and electronics to perfumes and sneakers – and producing fake versions to try to rip you off.
Fake products carry more than just the disappointment of getting something inauthentic and substandard; they can pose real threats to your health and safety. For example, fake cosmetics often contain arsenic, mercury, or lead; impostor car seats and helmets will fail standard safety tests, and knock-off batteries can cause fires.
Just how big is this problem? On average, the worldwide trade in counterfeit and pirated goods amounts to over $500 billion each year—and more than 50 percent of consumers believe they may have purchased a fake item when holiday shopping. Moreover, most consumers report purchasing those counterfeit items online.
This year, online shopping is expected to be consumers’ preferred holiday shopping method, with Adobe predicting a 2.5% growth in online sales between the beginning of November and the end of December. Couple that trend with consumers’ reported desire to cut back on holiday spending, and you have the perfect storm for counterfeiters ready to peddle cheap, dangerous, and fake products across your favorite e-commerce platforms.
While online platforms are taking steps to prevent counterfeits from ever reaching their sites, consumers should be vigilant, too, to avoid getting duped.
Of course, the best way to protect yourself from counterfeiters is to educate yourself about counterfeiters.
This holiday season, learn to shop smart with these ten tips:
- Trust your instincts: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
- Insist on secure transactions: Make sure your payments are submitted via websites beginning with the https:// (the “s” stands for secure) and look for a lock symbol at the bottom of your browser.
- Watch for missing charges: Criminals trafficking in counterfeit goods often do not report their sales to financial authorities, and so they will omit sales tax and other fees. This often amounts to a noticeable difference in the final price. Buyer beware.
- Seek quality assurance in the secondary market: Reputable and reliable resellers have comprehensive inspection and authentication procedures and technicians to inspect the equipment they sell.
- Be careful purchasing medicine online: Over 96% of online pharmacies do not meet safety or legal standards. To find an accredited digital pharmacy, verify with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
- Be vigilant when buying abroad: When shopping on international websites, look for trusted vendors that use identifiable privacy security safeguards and have reasonable return policies.
- Guard your personal information: Illicit websites often install malware that can steal your credit card information and other information stored on your computer.
- Scrutinize labels, packaging, and contents: Look for missing or expired dates on perishable products, broken or non-existent safety seals, false warranty information, or otherwise unusual packaging.
- Report fake products: Report unsafe counterfeit products to U.S. Customs Border and Protection or the National IPR Center.
- Spread the word: Share these tips! Teach your family, friends and coworkers about counterfeits.