How to spot counterfeit holiday gifts

By US Chamber of Commerce

While businesses and law enforcement work year-round to fight counterfeit and fake goods, the holidays are an especially busy time for crooks. If a product is successful, someone is likely producing a counterfeit version right now to try and rip you off.

Besides the disappointment of getting something you didn’t pay for, counterfeit goods also pose a threat to your health and safety. For example, fake cosmetics often contain arsenic, mercury, or lead, imposter baby formula can sicken infants, 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—with more than 50 percent of consumers believing they may have purchased a fake item when holiday shopping.

Despite inventory challenges amid supply chain bottlenecks from the global pandemic, new data forecasts online holiday shopping to reach a record $207 billion in 2021, an increase of 10% from last year. Unfortunately, this online shopping boom could also usher in a rise in counterfeit and fake goods populating ecommerce platforms.

Consumers should be vigilant to avoid getting duped. Common sense approaches like scrutinizing packaging and trusting your instincts are a good start. But what more can you do to protect yourself from counterfeits? This holiday season, learn to shop smart with these ten tips:

1.) Trust your Instincts: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

2.) 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.

3.) Watch For Missing Charges: Criminals trafficking in counterfeit goods often do not report their sales to financial authorities-a difference you may notice in the final price.

4.) 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.

5.) Be Careful Purchasing Medicine Online: Over 96% of online pharmacies do not meet safety or legal standards.

6.) 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.

7.) Guard Your Personal Information: Illicit websites often install malware that can steal your credit card information and other information stored on your computer.

8.) 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.

9.) Report Fake Products: Report unsafe counterfeit products to U.S. Customs Border and Protection or the National IPR Center.

10.) Spread the Word: Share these tips! Teach your family, friends and coworkers about counterfeits.


— Scott Hall, Senior Director of External and Public Affairs, Global Innovation Policy Center

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