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Latest update: 12.07.2024 | by Lili


7 types of harm counterfeits cause you


The grass is green, the sky is blue, and counterfeits are harmful. Just like the first two, this latter is a well-known fact, and yet many people deliberately choose to purchase fake products.


The reason behind that is usually money: some consumers see fake products as an excellent way to save money while getting a product with a popular brand’s logo. What they don’t know is the extensive harm this decision causes the economy, the environment, and themselves.


But what are these harms, and how to avoid them?



1. Damage to your health

In many parts of the world, particularly in Europe and the US, products have to adhere to a lot of conditions and legal requirements regarding ingredients and production methods. These rules also apply to imported products, regardless of their originating country. For example, skin care products usually have to undergo rigorous testing before they’re authorized to be sold. Similarly, car parts need to be made of durable materials that withstand extreme operating conditions.


Well, since counterfeits are created illegally, nobody gives a lot of thought to legal requirements anyway. Which means that virtually anything can make its way into a counterfeit product. For instance, the British police found human urine, rat droppings and arsenic in fake cosmetic products seized in a raid.



Image of a dirty bathroom

Image of a dirty bathroom



Similarly, critical equipment like fake car parts or bicycle helmets can cause serious accidents, even death because their materials are often not strong enough to endure the situations they’re created for. Just like the counterfeit brakes and fake helmets tested in this report by ZDF, and like the fake Audi parts Technology Review interviewed us about.


Would you knowingly expose yourself to such unnecessary risks?



2. Damage to the economy

Counterfeiters cause significant losses to the honest businesses whose products they’re faking, since they’re stealing customers and revenues from right under their noses. This in turn contributes to layoffs, and in the worst cases even the closure of an honest business.


Events like these tend to have a ripple effect across the industry. A brand collapses, which seriously affects its workers, suppliers, distribution partners, authorized sellers, creditors, and so on.


A common study by the OECD and EUIPO found that especially SMEs are at risk of sustaining major damage due to counterfeiting. Since many of these businesses tend to manufacture fewer but higher quality goods, they have much more to lose in a counterfeiting attack. Despite this fact, around 40% of EU-based SME’s don’t have any brand protection measures in place.


Find out how the EU helps SME’s protect their IP rights!


This is not a small, local matter; according to the OECD, the trade of counterfeit products amounts to 3.3% of the entire global trade. Fake products are seized at an annual value of $509 billion USD and counting. The effect of such volumes can be felt all over the world, especially in the current volatile economic situation.


Unsurprisingly, counterfeiters usually avoid paying taxes and social security contributions, which affects the entire national economy they’re working in. Such a loss of revenue for a state may eventually come back in the form of increased income taxes and other measures, felt by every single working citizen in the country.


Even the people who choose to buy counterfeits to save money.



3. Damage to the environment

Climate change is looming above all our heads and images of growing plastic waste in our oceans continue to horrify people all over the world. No wonder that brands and consumers strive to create more environmentally conscious production and consumption models, which definitely includes the reduction of waste.


Well, fraudsters don’t really care about any of that. Nobody regulates the production of fakes, so nobody knows what kinds of pollutants are released into the environment day after day.


On the consumption side, fake products are usually of a lower quality than originals. This also means they tend to break faster and need to be thrown away more frequently, thus contributing to the towering mountains of waste surrounding our cities and polluting our waters.



Image of a waste field by the seaside

Image of a waste field by the seaside



Is flashing a fake brand logo worth all that?



4. Poor working conditions

We’ve seen that counterfeiters don’t care about ripping off an honest business or putting their customers and the environment in danger. So why would they care about their workers?


People manufacturing counterfeit goods are often doing so in appalling circumstances. Hazardous working conditions, child labour and even human trafficking victims are often involved in producing fakes. Workers are paid badly (if at all) and they’re in danger of imprisonment should a police raid find them at the site.


You don’t approve of high street fashion brands using sweatshops for production. So why is it OK when counterfeiters do it?



Related topics

The science behind buying counterfeits


How to identify a fake product


Counterfeits in different industries



5. High risk of losing money

Ordering online poses a certain amount of risk. After all, you’re paying for something without actually having the product, putting your trust in the unknown operator of a product listing. When that operator is a counterfeiter, the risks grow even higher.


There are certain procedures in place should your order not arrive. You can turn to the seller, the marketplace, or the payments provider to ask for a redelivery or even get your money back. Well, in case of a counterfeiter, they may not respond favourably, that is, if they respond at all. Which means you may just lose your money without getting anything in return.


But there’s another risk as well.


Thanks to global trade, a significant amount of online orders - including those of fakes - have to cross national borders and as such are exposed to duty and customs procedures. In many countries, police are entitled to perform checks to see the value and origin of a product. In case they find a counterfeit, they have the right to destroy the goods in question.


Which again leaves you with no money and no product. All you may get is a note from the police explaining what happened. Not exactly what you were looking for.



6. No customer service

Even the best products may malfunction or require spare parts over time. The same is true for fakes, although in their case this time may come sooner than with genuine products.


However, while you can contact the customer service of brands to get repairs or replacements done (sometimes even for free if your warranty still applies), fraudsters don’t exactly run the best customer service departments in the world.



Image of a person repairing a smartphone

Image of a person repairing a smartphone



It’s quite likely that you won’t have anyone to turn to for help, meaning you’ll end up throwing the product away and buying a new one, which brings us back to points 3 and 5.



7. Contribution to criminal activities

Simply put, counterfeiting is stealing. Fraudsters steal the intellectual property of a brand and copy their products, which means they steal their revenue as well. No wonder that brands resort to far-reaching measures to protect their IP rights, and we at globaleyez are there for them every step of the way.


Find out all about our comprehensive brand protection services


Moreover, counterfeiting is not isolated from other criminal activities. Drugs, firearms and human trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities all go hand in hand with counterfeiters. In fact, they often belong to the same networks of transnational organised crime.



Image of a gun and its ammunition

Image of a gun and its ammunition



Which means that your “harmless” purchase of a fake Gucci purse may help a drug dealer supply kids with drugs, or lead to a potential mass murderer receiving his gun.


You wouldn’t want to support criminals. So why would you support counterfeiters?




You’ve seen the seven most important types of harm counterfeits cause you, your loved ones and ultimately the entire world. But how to avoid them?


Well, that’s easy: don’t buy counterfeits. At least not deliberately.


Discover how to recognize a fake product


While possessing fake products with the logo of a well-known brand may elevate your status in the eyes of the world, you’ll know that it’s not the real deal. The resulting internalized shame, as well as the very real consequences of purchasing a counterfeit will diminish your feeling of achievement.


Just like the buyer of a fake watch in the ZDF’s report noted, you won’t get the satisfaction of possessing a branded product unless you possess a real branded product. Buying a fake is simply not worth it.