photo illustration of a counterfeit watch with graphic winter background

According to Lorne Lipkus, one of the founding members of the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network (CACN), the counterfeiting industry closely follows the authentic marketplace. “Anything and everything that is being made, that is in demand by the public, can and is being counterfeited,” says.

Holiday | Fraud

Tips for avoiding counterfeit products during the holiday season

Be a savvy shopper. Keep these guidelines in mind to ensure the gifts you’re buying are the real thing.

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According to CPA Canada’s holiday spending survey, Canadians expect to spend on average $643 on gifting this season. The cost of spreading joy means we’re looking to get the best possible deals on everything, from iPhones to eyeliner. But, we also need to keep an eye out for counterfeit products.

Health Canada is reminding consumers in time for the shopping season that fake merchandise can be dangerous, pointing to uncertified USB chargers that were found to pose a high risk of electric shock and fire. 

In addition to serious health and safety risks, knock-offs significantly impact the economy. A report from the International Chamber of Commerce estimates that the global economic value of counterfeiting and piracy could reach US$2.3 trillion by 2022.

And the problem continues to worsen every year, says Lorne Lipkus, one of the founding members of the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network (CACN).

“Counterfeiters…are clever at hiding their true identities, deal in cash transactions and spend considerable resources and time in trying to stay one step ahead of those that are trying to stop their illegal activities,” he says, noting the counterfeiting industry closely follows the authentic marketplace.

“Anything and everything that is being made, that is in demand by the public, can and is being counterfeited,” he adds. These include cellular devices and accessories, children’s toys, electrical products, computer components, health and beauty products, food and beverage, software, apparel and luxury goods of all kinds.

HOW TO SPOT A COUNTERFEIT PRODUCT

You can protect yourself and your hard-earned dollars.

“Anytime someone purchases [a product] somewhere other than an authorized and approved source, they need to be that much more vigilant in determining whether the product is authentic or counterfeit,” says Lipkus.

Here are some tips from Lipkus that’ll help you spot the fakes:

Trust your gut
If the product’s price is less than what is listed from known retailers, it’s an indicator that further investigation is required. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is—be more suspicious of the product’s authenticity.

Scrutinize the packaging
Counterfeiters copy existing packaging and documentation when preparing their imitations. In the process, there are often spelling, grammatical or other errors on the counterfeit, as well as slight differences in the colour, shading or positioning of the artwork in comparison to the authentic product. Look closely before plugging your phone into an “Abble” brand charger.

Locate the manufacturer’s information
There should be a clear indication of the manufacturer’s information, with easy-to-find instructions on how to contact the company.

Verify safety certification
If the product requires certification marks—such as with gas, plumbing, mechanical and electrical products, for example—check to see if they are present and verify them with the appropriate certification company. 

Read the reviews
When buying from third-party marketplace sites—such as eBay, Kijiji or Amazon—research the reliability of the seller. Take the time to read the reviews of the vendor and be suspicious if there is only one review. Where possible, purchases should be made with a credit or debit card, for a record of the transaction. 

FOR MORE

Read which scams took the most money from Canadians in 2017. Also, learn how to protect yourself from these three phone schemes.