Christmas counterfeits: Ways to spot bogus items before purchase
Toronto police display items that were seized during Project Consumer Safety at a news conference on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (Keith Hanley/CTV)
Published Monday, December 3, 2012 2:26PM EST
Upon announcing the seizure of more than $3 million in counterfeit goods Monday, a Toronto police fraud expert described the city’s counterfeit trade as “pervasive and lucrative.”
But, as one anti-counterfeiting lawyer notes, the sale of bogus products is just as widespread in other parts of the country and globe and is especially worrisome during the holiday season.
“Worldwide it’s just exploding. Its huge business,” Lorne Lipkus told CTV’s Canada AM on Monday. “It’s too much money for criminals not to want to make this kind of money.”
Gone is the perception that fraudulent goods are sold in back-alley marketplaces or by shady street vendors. Lipkus, a copyright expert with extensive experience helping police forces suss out phony products, notes that counterfeit goods can be sold anywhere-- from big-box stores to flea markets.
“Just about anywhere that consumers are buying products, there’s counterfeits close by,” he said.
As shoppers rush into stores trying to finish their holiday shopping, Lipkus has identified a few tried-and-true tips to help consumers spot and avoid phony gifts:
Check for authenticating details and inconsistencies
Jerseys and caps are an ideal gift for the sports fan in any family, but are also a common target for counterfeiters hoping to make a buck off a popular team’s logo.
Take the Blue Jays baseball cap, for instance. Genuine caps have a reflective sticker depicting the Major League Baseball logo below the brim, said Lipkus. Each cap’s sticker is sequentially numbered.
These authenticating details are sometimes askew in fraudulent products, but consumers often aren’t likely to notice unless they pay close, scrutinizing attention.
Lipkus recalled how one batch of fraudulent baseball caps included the reflective sticker, but each hat was labelled with the same “authenticating” number.
When in doubt, read the tag
Sometimes a product’s tag can offer clues as to whether that item is phony.
Lipkus offered the example of two plush toys depicting red birds from the game Angry Birds.
“The reality is that these are plush toys, our children play with them. They must be made of new material, and only new material,” he said.
The tag on the real Angry Birds toy did, in fact, list “new material.”
The fake toy did not have a tag -- let alone one that listed “new material.”
Scrutinize the product’s logo
That brand-new doll might look exactly like a popular cartoon character, but it’s probably best to look for the creator’s logo before heading to the cash register, said Lipkus.
Offering a counterfeit Buzz Lightyear doll as evidence, Lipkus noted that the action figure looks just like the Toy Story character but is missing one important detail.
There is no Disney or Pixar logo visible anywhere on the box, a tip-off that the item is counterfeit.