Not a victimless crime
Once viewed as “victimless crimes,” counterfeiting and piracy have become big business in recent years. Since the early 1990s, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports trade in counterfeits has grown at eight times the rate of legitimate trade. Seizures of counterfeit goods by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol rose 125% during the past five years and are up 80% from 2005 to 2006 alone.
How can you tell if that bargain you are considering is the real thing or just a cheap knock-off? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce offers this advice:
Look closely at labels, packaging and contents
This might be your best way of spotting a fake. Look for missing or expired “use by” dates, broken or missing safety seals, missing warranty information, or otherwise unusual packaging.
Consider the source
If you are buying from a reputable, well-known store or website, chances are you are dealing with the real thing. Buying from a street vendor or a website you’ve never heard of could increase your chances of ending up with a counterfeit article.
Watch for missing sales tax charges
No one likes to pay sales tax but if you aren’t charged, that’s a red flag. Businesses selling counterfeit goods usually don’t report their sales to financial authorities—a difference you may notice in the price you ultimately pay, especially in states that collect sales taxes.
How secure is your transaction?
Operations moving counterfeit goods aren’t likely to invest in elaborate security systems to protect your financial information. Walk away if you are uncomfortable with the security of the transaction. When doing business online, make sure your payments are submitted via websites beginning with https:// and look for a lock symbol at the bottom of your browser. If you are making an in-person purchase, check to make sure your credit card information does not appear on copies that can fall into the wrong hands.
Here are some other signs you aren’t dealing with the real thing:
- The product priced substantially below retail
- The product appears to be of poor quality
- The packaging is torn or otherwise suspicious
- The seller accept payments in cash only
- The logos don’t look quite right or are in the wrong place
- There is no licensing, copyright or trademark information on the packaging
Most common counterfeits
Almost any product can be counterfeited but there are certain items that get copied more than others. Toys and electronic games are a common counterfeit product because they are so easy to fake. Jewelry is another common con – beware the Rolex watch for $50. Music CDs and movies are also easily copied and sold as the real thing. Jerseys of professional sports franchises are easily copied too.
“We must recognize counterfeits for what they are,” Hood said. “They are a serious danger to our personal, financial and societal well-being.”