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Counterfeit goods fraud

What it is

When any product such as designer clothes, accessories, electricals or cosmetics are fake but sold as authentic.

They’re presented using the intellectual property of a well-known brand so the seller can make a large profit, even though to you it might look like a bargain.

Protect yourself

  • Check the quality and labels first. It’s easy to spot a fake as their labels have spelling mistakes or other distinguishing marks.
  • If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting a great deal.
  • Get the trader to tell you if they provide an after-sales service, warranty or guarantee. Most rogue traders don’t.

Spot the signs

  • You’ve bought an item and found it’s not made by the brand it claims to be from.
  • It’s poor quality, which might make the product unusable or even unsafe.
  • Many counterfeit goods are sold at car boot sales, pubs, markets or fairs. This makes it difficult to trace the seller once you’ve bought.

How it happens

Counterfeit goods include fake clothes, bags, accessories and perfumes that imitate recognised brands, as well as poor-quality pirated copies of DVDs, CDs and computer games. They can be sold at markets, in pubs or door-to-door. Counterfeits can also be found at online auctions and web marketplaces, where you have no way of checking whether the products are genuine until you’ve paid and had them delivered.

If you buy something that isn’t as described, or isn’t satisfactory quality, you have statutory rights. This means you should be entitled to a refund or an exchange of goods. However, counterfeit sellers aren’t easy to track down.

If you buy counterfeit goods, you’re helping the trader to break the law. The money you’ve spent ends up funding organised crime such as drug dealing. You’re also contributing to job losses because genuine manufacturers are unable to match prices charged by rogue traders. Worst of all, you’re putting yourself at risk: some counterfeits can be dangerous to use and in some cases are made using toxic substances.

Find out more about how counterfeit goods are investigated by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit at City of London Police.

How to report it

If you think you have been sold counterfeit goods, or if you suspect somebody is selling fake goods, get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06. Your local Trading Standards office can also give you advice.

Report it to us online or call 0300 123 2040.