Counterfeit goods conjure up images of fake designer purses on Canal Street in New York or mock prestige makeup brands being peddled along Santee Alley in Los Angeles. For some, it can dismissible since one person buying a fake Urban Decay Naked palette or Kate Spade purse can’t really have that big of an implication right? Well it depends on each person’s definition of big, but currently the counterfeit market is worth $600 billion.
This is not to be confused with knockoffs. A counterfeit is a form of trademark infringement that includes, “selling lookalike goods or services bearing fake trademarks,” reports Nolo. These terms tend to be used interchangeably, but are different both in the eyes of the law and the consumer. Women’s Wear Daily broke down the differences between the two:
Counterfeit: goods are meant to mislead the consumer. These aim to be almost or exactly identical to the original product in which it is based. This would be an example of the aforementioned items sold in places like Canal Street.
Knockoff: Products that look like another item, but it is not a copycat. These are not illegal, but have been brought to court by the original designers. Fast fashion brands are notorious for creating knockoffs from runway designs at a fraction of the price.
A contributing factor to people being duped by counterfeit items is the rise of e-commerce. Protected by a computer screen and a fake website, anyone from an individual looking to make a quick buck, to organized crime groups looking to fund illegal activity are looking for someone to rip off. When buying goods online there are some important precautions to take to protect yourself against buying counterfeit merchandise.
One is to use a credit card when making purchases. In a conversation with The Record, Toronto lawyer Lorne Lipkus states that most credit card companies have consumer protections and no tolerance for the sale of counterfeit goods. Debit cards don’t always carry the same protections.
Look at the web address. Legitimate online marketplaces such as Amazon, Urban Outfitters and other e-commerce addresses utilize encryption https://” as opposed to “http://
Look for errors. Many scam websites will almost be indistinguishable from the legitimate ones. Although, many times if you look closely you will see spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.
Use common sense. Never e-mail credit card information to anyone. Barry Elliot of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) reports that a lesser known way to check the validity of a site is to check the domain on the contact e-mail. The domain should be the brand or marketplace name, not something personal at Gmail or Hotmail.
Follow your gut and if something feels off, then it most likely is. Buy from reputable websites and investigate ones you are unsure of. Luckily there are consumer protections in place, but it is best to avoid the headache if all possible. If you do find yourself to be the victim of a scam, report it and you may save someone else from finding themselves in the same situation.