Buying counterfeit goods has many repercussion and is illegal. By doing it, people can also cause serious damage to the economy. When shoppers buy fake purses, perfumes and other goods, they are stealing just as much as the person who made the copies.
First, get tips on spotting counterfeit goods, then find out more about the harm counterfeiting does in the gallery below. Think you can spot counterfeit money? See if you can tell the difference between a real or fake $5 bill.
How to Spot a Fake
It’s not always easy to spot a fake with just a glance. Here are some tips to help you buy the real thing.
At first, it might seem like you’re getting an unbelievably good deal. But if the price is just too good to be true, it’s probably a counterfeit item. Fakes are often sold at a much cheaper price than the real product.
A big giveaway is a lack of serial numbers or country of origin, like on the packaging of software or a cell phone.
IN THE STORE
Buy clothes and accessories from reputable stores, like in a mall or department store. Counterfeit goods are often sold in flea markets, at discount stores, or on the street.
Beware of items for sale on the Internet. Even if a product is listed as “authentic,” it might not be. Also, some imported goods may be fake because it’s harder to follow up with sellers and they don’t necessarily follow the same American laws.
Logos are an easy way to tell if something is a fake. Think of a designer Coach bag — their logo is a signature “C.” Examine the lay out of the Cs. They should line up perfectly at the center seams of the bag. Authentic Coach bags have the Cs in pairs, facing each other and lined up in a row. The most obvious way to spot a fake is if the C is an O, G or Q.
The quality of a zipper on a bag or clothing item is also a good indicator. If you have trouble zippering the bag, or the zipper seems as though it would easily break off, the bag is fake. The hardware on a bag should always be heavy — as it is made of silver or brass. Fake bags use plastic or plated metal.
The leather on a fake bag will feel stiff and resemble plastic. Leather should feel smooth. If the color is uneven or splotchy, it is not real.
The stitching of an authentic bag should be perfect. There should be no unfinished stitching and the size of the stitch should be small and tight, and each stitch should be the same size. If the stitching looks sloppy and is overlapping, the bag is fake.
Find out why different kinds of counterfeit products hurt people globally in the slideshow below, then check out the video.
Jessica's report focused on counterfeit handbags being sold in New York City's Chinatown -- and one of the biggest "knockoff" markets out there is for designer handbags. However, in addition to being illegal, you should know that when you buy a fake designer handbag, the people who made that bag are likely earning very little money for their work. They may even be children working in sweatshops.
Another problem associated with counterfeiting: The workers employed in these factories may work in harsh conditions. Their employers are not only stealing someone else's intellectual property, they are not likely to be ethical business people either. The profit they make could be tied to illegal drugs, human trafficking and even terrorism.
Much has been made of a 2007 incident when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered a fake brand name toothpaste being sold in four U.S. states that might have contained a chemical called DEG, which is used in anti-freeze.
Though the toothpaste was tested and found to only have a dangerous bacteria in it, this incident proves that the cost of saving a few cents on a drugstore product is not worth it...for anyone.
Much like a knockoff handbag, buying a designer accessory with a brand's logo or label on it, when you know it was not made by that designer, has a real cost to the economy and society. What's one of the biggest problems? Jobs.
Harper's Bazaar, a fashion magazine that is staunchly anti-knockoff, estimates that 750,00 jobs are lost each year because of intellectual property theft.
Much like fake toothpaste, the effects of counterfeited pharmaceuticals can have an impact that you'll feel in more than your bank account -- they could cause serious harm or even kill if you take them.
Often these counterfeit drugs are just placebos, but if they do contain the medicine they claim to be, it can be in a different amount or concentration. The counterfeit medicine can even be mixed with a completely different drug.
Finally, putting health concerns aside, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that counterfeited pharmaceuticals cost the economy $32 billion annually.
Everyone knows that iPhones are expensive. Any idea why?
Sure, they're an amazing piece of technology that probably cost Apple a ton of money to develop, but buying a knock-off version of a consumer electronic drives up the price of the real thing. And that's not the biggest problem with fake electronics. Your cell phone, even a cheap knockoff version, probably isn't going to catch on fire.
Last December, however, the market was flooded with cheap holiday lights, which, manufactured without consumer electronic standards and safety features could malfunction and a cause a fire. In your house. On Christmas.
Here's another one that hits where it hurts -- your wallet. According to the New York Times, "American movie, music and software companies alone estimate that Chinese pirated goods cost them more than $2 billion a year in sales."
Think about that the next time the price of a ticket goes up at your local movie theater.
Plus, those pirated copies of movies that people record using a video camera in the theater are poor quality.
The most commonly seized items by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2009 were fake branded shoes.
This one brings us back to those children working in sweatshops.
Did you know that factory owners who manufacture legitimate brand goods often run a second shift? They use the same machines and materials to create branded clothes and shoes, but they don't sell them to the brand, they sell them to the black market where they're sold to consumers at lower prices. However, they don't take a loss on the second shift of goods -- they pay the workers less money to make the same product.