How to spot knockoffs and counterfeit goods

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An estimated $1.7 trillion worth of counterfeit products are sold to consumers every year. Here are tips to avoid falling for a fake.

An estimated $1.7 trillion worth of knockoffs, counterfeit and imitation products are sold to consumers every year. While it can be difficult to spot the fakes, many counterfeiters are selling products the manufacturers never made in the first place.

Can't get enough of Justin Bieber? How about wearing some of his Supra Skytop Hi skate shoes for $119?

Eyewitness News found them on sale at Amazon, Taobao, a China-based website that's one of the biggest online marketplaces in the world, and on eBay.

"They don't manufacture a Justin Bieber model. It doesn't exist, it's a fake, it's counterfeited and sold to consumers under the Supra brand name because Justin Bieber does wear Supra shoes," Craig Crosby of The Counterfeit Report said.

Crosby says the Monster "T-1 Daft Punk Limited Edition" headphone isn't a fake reproduction of a real product. Monster never sold it in the first place, but it's selling on for $345, a high price for a product that doesn't exist.

Lev Kubiak is the director of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, a U.S. government agency that targets and prosecutes criminal counterfeiting operations. He says it's easy for consumers to be deceived.

"The criminal can dupe the company as well, so there is almost never an instant where you can be 100 percent sure that the product you're getting is a legitimate product."

Counterfeit perfumes, like bottles recently confiscated by federal agents in Los Angeles, are sometimes indistinguishable from the real product.

Most consumers can't tell the difference between real and fake bottles of Marc Jacobs' perfumes. To most consumers, they look exactly alike, but experts say counterfeit perfumes can pose a health risk because they may contain ingredients such as "antifreeze, bacteria, urine, beryllium, lead, arsenic."

Monte Smetherman is the operating manager for Duarte-based Dahon, the largest manufacturer of folding bikes in the world. He says he spends a few $100,000 a year battling the counterfeiters. The company has four full-time employees who track down fake Dahon bikes around the world.

While identifying a fake product can be difficult, to counter the counterfeiters, there are several steps shoppers should take before buying online:

  • Buy directly from the manufacturer or an authorized dealer to make sure you're getting the real thing.

  • Do some research to know what the authentic product looks like, sometimes, counterfeiters will alter the color, logo, or sell those fake fakes manufacturers never made in the first place.

  • And, if a price of a new product online is way cheaper than retail, be cautious, it could be a fake.

Watch Ric Romero's report on Eyewitness News above.

Related Topics:
shoppingconsumerconsumer concernsfraudcounterfeit
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