How to identify fake products online

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With the proliferation of online retailers vying for our custom and our love of hunting down a bargain, it’s often hard to tell the difference between the real deal and counterfeit items.

While buying fake products might seem like a way of getting something for a great price, buying knock-off goods benefits organised crime, penalises legitimate retailers and manufacturers, and can be dangerous. Last year, the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) found that almost half of toys sold on third-party sites like eBay and Amazon were unsafe for children. The dangers they identified ranged from posing a high risk of choking to having been made using unsafe quantities of chemicals.

How to identify fake products online
How to identify fake products online

It isn’t only toys: other fake products can also potentially be extremely hazardous. According to UK Trading Standards, one often-counterfeited item is fake make-up which can contain toxic chemicals like copper, mercury and arsenic leading to severe skin reactions, rashes and poisoning. Fake-branded alcohol, which looks like the real thing but is very different, can contain methanol, antifreeze or other substances and have been linked with several deaths in recent years.

Fake electrical goods and accessories can pose electrocution and fire risks, while clothes which don’t meet fire safety regulations can also be fire risks.

The thought of buying a potentially dangerous counterfeit product won’t sit comfortably with any of us. But it can be hard to distinguish a ‘real’ product from a ‘fake’ one. To make it easier, look out for these tell-tale signs to help you spot counterfeit products.

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Watch out for spelling errors

Spelling errors in online product descriptions or product labels could be a sign of counterfeit products. If you’re on a third-party website, rather than an online marketplace, also check for spelling errors in the URL (the website address which is visible in the browser window). This can also sometimes be an indicator of a scam website which could be trying to defraud you by installing malware on your computer.

Check the packaging

Top quality brands are unlikely to skimp on packaging, so if your fashion item or latest technology purchase comes with plain or low-quality packaging, then alarm bells should start ringing.

Compare against the manufacturer’s website

Buying a branded pair of trainers or a designer handbag on an online marketplace? Check the product you’re looking at against the manufacturer’s official website. Signs that indicate a product could be a counterfeit include:

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