How to spot and avoid counterfeit products

According to the IACC (International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition), counterfeiting has increased by 10,000% over the past two decades due, partially, to high rates of consumer demand.


Unfortunately, consumers often don’t realise they’re buying counterfeit products because it’s so difficult to identify them. After all, counterfeits are everywhere you look. In 2004, Tiffany & Co. estimated that about 73% of all Tiffany jewellry on Ebay is counterfeit (link opens PDF file), leading the company to file a lawsuit against the internet auctioning giant.


The question is: how can you tell that something is counterfeit? This simple ‘Real vs Fake’ test shows just how impossible it can be to tell the difference, and how dangerous the online marketing world can be for consumers.


Research the vendor

Websites like Craigslist and Ebay have made efforts to control the number of counterfeits on their market, but it’s not enough. There are many vendors out there who are still selling fakes or dupes. Untrustworthy vendors can still have good feedback and ratings because they’ve managed to trick consumers with their counterfeits before.


To check if a vendor is legitimate or not, first look at the item description and title. Does the vendor overly use words like ‘authentic’, ‘genuine’, ‘guarantee’ or ‘real’? Is the item described as ‘inspired by’ a brand? If so, this means the product is 99% counterfeit.


More obviously, if a product is being retailed for about €200 on the market, and there’s a vendor on eBay selling it for €80, it’s fake. No authorised seller will sell an authentic product for less than half of what it’s worth.


Check the packaging and factory details

A consumer can easily check if the model number cited on the packing or product itself was actually issued by the brand. Counterfeit products tend to have model numbers that are not listed by the manufacturer. Also, factories tend to make a limited number of products listed as the ‘article number’. If the product has an extremely high article number, chances are it’s fake.


Another thing to look out for is the availability of contact information. Counterfeit products will come in packaging that usually doesn’t display the address of manufacturer or importer, and also doesn’t have any phone number or email address. Sometimes the writing on the packaging itself is faded so that you cannot read it.


In addition, the instruction manual that comes with the counterfeit product is likely to be full of grammar mistakes and maybe not even in a language that you recognise.


Check the logo and other trademarks

Even if the logo looks authentic, pull up a photo of what you know is the real logo to compare it to. Logos tend to be badly copied or have slight differences not easily noticed at first.


The font of the logo or the brand’s slogan can also be different from the trademarked font of the brand. Trademarks themselves can be misspelled.


Another thing to check for is that all the logos on the product match. Manufacturing of counterfeit products can be so sloppy that not all the logos on the same products match up together. For example, many fake bags have logos which don’t align on the seams. This screams counterfeit.