I read in the news recently that police seized thousands of dollars in counterfeit goods from retail stores located in two Cincinnati area malls. When I think of counterfeit goods, I usually picture those small time operations with tables out on the side of the street, but counterfeit goods are actually a pretty big problem.
According to a report by the Department of Homeland Security, the total domestic value of merchandise seized during 2011 was $178.9 million, an amount that would have had a value of $1.1 billion had it been legitimate. The report lists the top 10 types of counterfeit products seized as pharmaceuticals, health/personal care, eyewear/parts, critical technology components, electronic articles, cigarettes, perfumes/colognes, batteries, exercise equipment and transportation/parts.
As a consumer, low prices may be appealing but what you don’t see are the hidden costs in lost jobs, stolen business profits or even threats to your health and safety. You may expect to find fakes in some venues but they can also be sold on professional looking websites or, as in these cases, at the mall.
BBB offers the following advice for shopping safely when looking for deals on designer goods, as well as tips on how to spot a fake:
Always deal with reputable businesses. The number one way to avoid getting ripped off when buying luxury goods is to deal with reputable businesses. When in doubt, shoppers can contact the manufacturer and verify which vendors are authorized sellers. Consumers should also check out the business with BBB at www.cincinnati.bbb.org/search before making a purchasing decision.
If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. One of the biggest red flags for knock-off merchandise is an unrealistic price. Extremely low prices are tempting but not to be believed. Paying $100 for a $1000 purse could result in the consumer receiving a poorly constructed – and worthless – fake.
Read between the lines. Some websites or online classified ads will go overboard in their description of the item in order to coax the buyer’s trust. Overuse of “genuine,” “real” or “authentic” is a bad sign. Buyers also need to keep an eye out for sneaky phrases like “inspired by.”
Check the merchandise. Considering that the name is a large part of the motivation for buying a luxury brand, many manufacturers spend considerable time and energy on crafting the physical label. Counterfeiters aren’t usually as meticulous. Shoppers should look for misspelled words and brand names, poorly sewn logos and labels, etc. Some luxury goods carry an “authenticity label” with a hologram or other security measure.
Know the brand. Different luxury brands, such as purses, have specific hardware consumers can rely on to identify a genuine piece. Zippers, screws, clasps and stitching are usually very specific for the brand and the manufacturer often has details on their website explaining what to look for and how to spot a knock-off. Craftsmanship is king for most luxury brands. If the sunglasses snap in two in the first week, or if the stitching and seams are ragged and don’t match up on a purse, the items are probably counterfeit.