An Industry of Fakes

Counterfeiting consumer products accounts for nearly half a trillion dollars in imports each year, or 2.5% of the world’s total imports (source). It’s an incredibly profitable business which becomes harder to detect every single year. Popular counterfeit consumer goods include:

  • Electronics
  • Fashion apparel and accessories
  • Medication
  • Food
  • Cigarettes
  • Toys

These products, frequently referred to as “bootlegs” or “knockoffs” attempt to mislead consumers and profit from the status of an established brand. They pay costs similar to the genuine product price, while counterfeiters reap massive profits from their cheaply made goods.

Consumers aren’t left entirely to their own devices to determine whether products are legitimate. While they are the front line in inspecting and ultimately deciding whether it’s a legitimate purpose, organizations around the world are cracking down on the sale and manufacturing of counterfeit goods.

Government Action

It should be no surprise that the sale of illegal products benefit other illegal activities. South America and Mexico’s drug cartels frequently work hand-in-hand with counterfeiters for extra income. Street gangs and human traffickers in Asia run production of phony merchandise to pay for weapons, bribes and any number of other needs. The United States has also concluded that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was carried out using profits from a counterfeit t-shirt business. It’s no longer just in the interest of consumer rights, but national security.

The Department of Homeland Security has carried out many in person and virtual raids against counterfeiting websites. Most notoriously on Cyber Monday in 2010 which led to the shutdown of 82 online retailers in one day. The 2007 bust of one of the largest counterfeiting rings led to $200 million in goods from their New York location alone. In 2011, eight nations most impacted by these criminal actions created the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) to take communal action around the world.

Product Authentication

Businesses are taking steps to separate their products from those who wish to copy them. Many notoriously counterfeited items use holographic seals or labels which cannot be replicated . Higher price items may even use UV tags which can only be seen with a blacklight. The most common method is a barcode or verification number which customers can verify online or over the phone. However, counterfeiting operations are getting better everyday. The safest bet will always be following your gut. If it seems shady, walk away.

How Can I Spot a Fake?

Identifying counterfeit products and money are easier said than done. As production tactics advance every day, there’s always the risk that security measures haven’t adapted. This can leave you financially unstable, set back by the purchase of a big ticket counterfeit or physically harmed, so it’s best to always stay vigilant.

So what are the obvious signs to look for?

Consumer Goods

Identifying a regular product from a counterfeit almost always comes down to the feel. Brands put some serious effort into their looks, packaging and overall design. If you’re buying an $800 item, it’s going to feel like it’s worth that. Inspect the box for odd looking logos, misprints or color changes. It may also feel incredibly flimsy. When it comes to the product itself, make sure it feels sturdy. The contents should also match what’s described and feature information on safe uses or care.

Lack of quality control is the downfall of most counterfeits. The products will often be hastily made to ensure high volumes can be sold to offset manufacturing costs. If items even function as intended, they will feel off or suffer from poor performance.

At the end of the day, it comes down to how you feel. Would that expensive Apple Watch really be sold in a shop full of no name electronic gear on the side of the road? Does this handbag have unusual stitching? Is the label a different color than it should be on that pill bottle? If it looks fishy, ditch it. It’s not worth the risk. Always strive to buy direct from the manufacturer, but when all else fails trust your gut.


Luckily, you’re backed by the government when it comes to ensuring safety with currency. Touch still plays a heavy role here, but there are enough official measures in place that it’s very difficult for counterfeit money to enter the system in the first place.

Printing quality is the first indicator. High definition coloring makes even the most weathered bill’s portraits and text stand out from the background. Every line, color and shape will be distinct with no blurring or fading around the edges. The serial number will be perfectly even in positioning, with a uniform color matching the Treasury’s seal.

The composition of the paper is another major factor. Real dollar bills have red and blue hair-like fibers imbedded in the bill. Counterfeits will have printed on coloring, or dyed animal hair which can be felt on the surface. Iodine based markers will leave different color marks if the low quality fakes use starch in its ingredients.

The simplest way of spotting a fake is holding it up against the light. Watermarks will use the light to reveal images not visible under regular conditions. In the event a counterfeiter is skilled enough to replicate this effect, it will be very obviously poor quality.

Famous Counterfeiting Cases

Most cases of counterfeiting don’t make it very far. Either consumers ignore the offer or never notice their product is a copy. False money is often caught immediately before an offender has the chance to profit.

However, the longer a case is able to hide itself and continue, the bigger the mess once it is uncovered. These are some of the major counterfeiting scandals in recent history.

Designer Products from China

Starting in the mid-2000s, the court system began to see a familiar face. Xu Ting, a 45 year old Chinese citizen turned U.S. resident, began receiving contact from the lawyers of major fashion brands. Ting had been operating an online site selling Chinese knock-offs of Gucci, Louis Vuitton and other famous designers. After 8 years of sales, a federal judge ordered her to pay $6.9 million in damages to Gucci. Another 2009 ruling forced her to close several websites, in 2010 several brands opened another lawsuit over $2 million in fake handbag sales.

“Olive” Oil

Because of its classification as a foodborne illness incident, this massive case of fraud has largely gone unnoticed. Commercially sold olive oil has a long history of forgery as lower quality oil may be sold at the price of extra virgin, or ingredients added to create a similar product. A 1981 outbreak of toxic oil syndrome occurred in Spain due to a manufacturer using industrial grade rapeseed oil and selling it as olive oil. Over 600 people were killed as a result, with thousands more suffering from permanent illnesses.

The Lavender Hill Mob

Although the name may be awesome, this small group of men almost destabilized the British economy with 50 million worth of counterfeit pound notes. Led by Stephen Jory, an already well known counterfeiter, and Kenneth Mainstone, a retired industrial printer, the two perfectly replicated British currency to their benefit. Before each member of the gang was taken down by Scotland Yard’s Operation Mermaid, the group had so much success they began expanding into stamp counterfeiting as well. With so much fake money floating in the economy, the Bank of England was forced to up security measures on its 20 pound note.

An Act of War

Though it’s nearly a century ago at this point, WW2 provides a startling example of just how effective counterfeiting can be. It isn’t just capable of swindling unsuspecting customers, it can destabilize entire governments and destroy the economy. The Nazi’s Operation Bernhard printed over $7 billion in today’s dollars of American and British currency. Money would be sifted in through spies and small transactions to knock inflation out of control, making their dollar worthless and unable to continue the war effort.

Not All Products May Be Authentic

Most crime takes place in the public eye. Once it occurs, somebody immediately finds out. Whether it’s the victim of a group of witness it’s obvious something illegal has just taken place. However, some may become victims and go years, possibly decades, without realizing they have become a victim. Others might never find out.

These are victims of counterfeiting crimes. While fraud is often committed with the acceptance that at some point or another people will catch on, counterfeiting is a special form which aims to become part of the marketplace. Offenders replicate items in order to take advantage of the value associate with them.

Criminals most often counterfeit…

  • Money
  • Documents
  • Clothing and accessories
  • Mechanical parts
  • Consumer goods
  • Software and entertainment products

These products are often a much lower quality than their genuine counterpart. Logos and brands will be slightly altered so as to avoid infringement allegations, or a full copied logo may be distorted due to the producer not having high quality files for assembly.

More importantly, the lower quality puts consumers at risk of non functioning, weak or toxic components. Counterfeit car parts may look like they’re from the manufacturer, but can fail almost immediately during use. Medicine can be counterfeited in unsterile environments which invites disease, or use poisonous chemicals.

Counterfeited goods are everywhere. The International Anti Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) estimates that, in 2015 alone, counterfeited goods accounted for $1.77 trillion entering the worldwide economy. The IACC also suggests several ways of spotting a fake:

  • Research a business’s reputation- See what their history looks like.
  • Train your eye- If it looks different, trust your gut.
  • Look for red flags- If it seems too good to be true, it is.
  • Search for overused words- In a weak attempt to convince shoppers, retailers may go overboard in telling how “real”, “authentic” or “genuine” a product is.

Although it may not always be that easy. Online shopping often uses third party suppliers to fulfill their stock who may, with or without their knowledge, be selling fake goods. Especially from sites like Amazon, buy directly from the manufacturer or ensure they provide a way in which you can authenticate the product before use.

Financial Crime Investigations

In many cases involving legal aspects it is possible to avoid hiring a lawyer. Some works can be completed by self or with the help of a consultant. However, there are reasons why most people still prefer hiring a lawyer even for a minor problem where legal issues are involved.

Lawyers Know the Subject Thoroughly

Most lawyers and private prosecutions practice in a particular field of law. They have gone through years of legal education, internship and practice to understand all aspects of their profession. They bring their expertise and experience that can make a difference in a case. When a person approaches a lawyer for legal help then the professional takes a close look at the problem being faced by that person. From prior knowledge and experience, the lawyer knows if the problem can be solved without going to the court or if it requires filing a court case. Many issues are solved without any need to go to the court when a lawyer enters into the picture. Most people take a legal notice from a lawyer seriously and try to work out a solution out of the court. It helps avoid court and legal fees for all parties involved. Divorce lawyer Orlando provides valuable help to prospective divorece.

A Lawyer Knows the Process Involved in a Particular Case

Each type of court case must go through the right process. Whether it is a divorce case, immigration problem or a crime case, everyone concerned has to follow the process as required by the law. Most people work in other fields and do not have deep knowledge and understanding of laws. If the due process as required by the law is not followed in a case then it can result in a weak case. There are important documents that must be submitted in the court. There are forms that must be filled correctly. If a person without any experience in the legal field tries to do these things by self then it can result in mistakes. A lawyer helps avoid this type of problem.

Good Negotiator

When there is a dispute then it does not mean the case immediately ends up in the court. The lawyer first sends a notice to the other party to see if there is a chance of out of court settlement. It helps avoid expensive legal fees and long drawn out court case. This is possible only when a person takes help of a lawyer. Lawyers are good negotiator and can handle negotiations properly. They know how to counter the arguments put up by the opposing lawyer.

Complying with Law

There are many issues where there is no problem or dispute and yet the services of a lawyer are needed. For example, a company cannot start its operation without having proper documents in place. It is advisable never to start a partnership business without having all documents verified by a competent lawyer. Properly prepared documents eliminate future problems that can arise if a dispute arises with a business partner, product supplier or service provider.

It is because of these benefits that most people prefer hiring a lawyer for issues where it is necessary to follow the rule of law.