The Holiday Season Brings The Threat of Counterfeits Closer to Consumers

This 2011 Holiday season was abuzz with Christmas-inspired sales, both in brick & mortar stores and in the online world. Drawn by its convenience and ease, shoppers flocked to the internet to seek the best bargains for presents for their loved ones. Unfortunately, as we have seen with rogue online pharmacies, the internet is not immune to counterfeiters. Seeking to leverage the potential for increased profits from the holiday season, counterfeiters no longer targeted expensive goods like handbags and DVDs, but moved to less expensive goods such as Christmas lights, toys, sports jerseys, and even batteries.

Counterfeit products such as toys for children are potentially dangerous, as the source of the materials is generally unknown and may consist of substandard and/or hazardous parts. Even worse, counterfeit items such as Christmas lights and batteries, which tend to be made from substandard fuses or bad wires, can be a potential fire hazard or otherwise harmful to the consumer.

Another recently counterfeited product, alcohol, is quite a favorite for counterfeiters this season. Fake vodka has been found in unlicensed shops and small businesses across the UK. The fake spirits range from containing ingredients such as those found in antifreeze, lethal doses of methanol (the key ingredient in alcohol), and even chloroform - all 100% illegal and lethal.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to detect if a product is fake (this list is NOT complete):

- Unusual or uneven coloring of products (something that can be much easily spotted in children's toys such as Angry Birds or Pokemon) - Poor handiwork (poor stitching on jeans) - Poorly printed labels - Spelling and grammatical errors on labels - For alcohol - bottles on the shelf not all filled to the same level - For alcohol - an odd smell (like nail polish remover)

Online C2C (consumer to consumer) companies such as eBay and Taobao are vigilantly working against eliminating the presence of counterfeits on their site, but also encourage consumers to be smart when shopping online. For example, eBay has created a space on their website that allows consumers to give reviews for products and sellers and share their expertise on specific products through 'guides.' This eBay guide, created by a registered user, is a great example of how consumers, empowered with the ability to share information through a trusted site, will help others avoid purchasing a fake Coach bag: "How to spot a fake COACH bag."

For those still unsure of the genuineness of a product, a simple online search of the genuine product and any article on how to spot a fake of that product is always helpful.

Remember: Products at risk for counterfeiting are not exclusive to designer handbags or prescription medicines, but for any product sold in stores or online. Counterfeiters are elusive and keen, understand trends, and take advantage of opportunities for profit - there is no discrimination. This holiday season has proved that there are always people seeking to make a profit by any means necessary - even if it is harmful to others.

Thank you to all of our readers for a wonderful 2011. We are looking forward to an amazing 2012! Stay safe, healthy, and happy.