With fake goods estimated to account for 5-7% of world trade ($600 billion per year), we have all probably run into at least a few counterfeit products at one point or another. For many people, particularly in the U.S., fake goods mean pirated DVDs and knock-off designer bags sold on the street. Counterfeiting, however, is present in virtually every industry and is not always as easy to recognize as a poorly printed cover or misspelled brand name. Here are five things we would not have expected to see faked: 1. Cigarettes
Agencies around the world have been warning people about the dangers of fake cigarettes. In Punjab, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) found that at least 20% of the tobacco products sold were faked, and just last week, 1.5 million counterfeit cigarettes were seized in Poland before being sent to the UK and Norway. While genuine cigarettes already raise strong concerns about health, fake cigarettes have been found to contain ingredients such as cyanide, sand, and even plastic. Additionally, fake cigarettes are more likely to cause fires, as they are not designed to burn in a controlled manner like genuine cigarettes.
There are many examples of counterfeited processed foods and drinks (we wrote a blog post in June about the deaths of over 100 people in Mumbai as a result of consuming fake liquor), but how could unprocessed foods be faked? In Iran, officials discovered that oranges’ type and origin had been faked after they found a suspicious batch of oranges labeled as Israeli Jaffa Sweeties, even though Israel had banned trade between the two countries. Officials later learned that the oranges were not Jaffa Sweeties that somehow bypassed the trade ban, but rather a different type of orange from China with faked Jaffa Sweetie labels. In addition to faked Jaffa Sweeties, Australian officials have found oranges with fake Australian fruit company labels in China, when the oranges are actually from China and colored with toxic, artificial dyes to try and improve their appearance.
Although fake medicines often garner a lot of the media attention, they are not the only healthcare related products that are counterfeited. In fact, fake medical devices are becoming more and more common. This past week, New Hampshire officials learned that some of its first responders had been supplied with fake tourniquets, simple medical devices that help control blood loss during severe injuries. Officials discovered this after two tourniquets experienced an uncharacteristic “catastrophic failure” while paramedics tried to stop the blood loss from a patient’s leg injury.
4. Fake Celebrities and Businessmen
Sometimes a counterfeit is not even a physical product. In an article and short documentary published earlier this year, the New York Times reports on how Chinese real estate agents hire ordinary foreigners to pose as fake foreign celebrities to help sell their housing developments. The Atlantic also reported a similar story on how some Chinese companies hire foreigners to pose as a fake businessman in order to give the companies an “image of connection” outside of China to clients and other companies.
5. Fake Stores
Lastly, when selling fake products is not enough, you can fake an entire store. In 2011, Chinese officials discovered 22 fake Apple stores operating in the country. The stores illegally used Apple’s brand and logo and staff wore extremely similar t-shirts and lanyards to the ones found in genuine Apple stores. Although it hasn’t been confirmed whether the fake stores sold genuine or fake Apple products, it’s hard to imagine that a fake store actually sold a genuine product.
While it may be shocking to learn that these 5 things have been faked, our expectations of what can and cannot be faked are exactly what counterfeiters prey on. As long as they can counterfeit something that consumers don’t expect and make it widely available, countless people will fall for their trap, losing money and putting their safety at risk.
What other unexpected fakes have you seen or heard about? Let us know in the comments.