One of the biggest concerns among today's online shoppers is how to tell if a product is fake. Counterfeiting is major issue these days, with fake items making the rounds in industries like fashion and accessories, beauty and cosmetics, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and even automotive and security documents.
Our susceptibility to counterfeit products is an even bigger issue when shopping online, as we don’t get the chance to inspect or try out an item in person. Additionally, counterfeiters have become incredibly skilled in recent years, and it can often be difficult to spot the differences between the original and the replica. Just think of all those Louis Vuitton bags or Cartier Love bracelets that you seem to find ‘at a bargain’ nowadays.
Because of these issues, it’s crucial that we educate ourselves on how to spot counterfeit items and protect ourselves when shopping online. After all, protecting brands and customers alike from counterfeiting is a big part of our mission at engage™. To this end, we’ve come up with 10 essential tips to follow when you shop online; make sure you go through each of these steps whenever you’re in doubt about the authenticity of a product.
In most cases, counterfeiters operate by offering high-value products or big-name brands at low prices. If the quoted price for what would otherwise be a high-end item feels like it is too good to be true, this may be because it is too good to be true, and said product is actually a fake. This is not always the case, but it should be a major red flag and a sign that you should take a more in-depth look at the seller and his practices/history.
Counterfeiters are often very smart, which can make them difficult to spot. As such, they may shy away from offering prices that seem too good to be true and instead provide more discreet discounts. This is why even the smallest discount on a brand new item should be a warning sign. Take your time to visit the manufacturer's website or a reputable retailer's website to find out more about the recommended retail price of the coveted item.
It's tempting to think of a major online retailer like Amazon or Walmart as a safe space — a space in which only reputable items exist. This is not always the case. Many online platforms provide marketplace channels through which independent retailers can sell their wares. While these channels should be regulated, there is no guarantee that the items listed here are genuine. The profile page should have information regarding who is actually selling and mailing the product you are considering for purchase.
Use what you know about the seller to conduct some research into their history. Look for return addresses and other pieces of identifying information, and search for these online. Many fraudulent sellers will work hard to cover their tracks, so this type of research is not an exact science. However, you may be able to find information that indicates fraudulent activities in their history, which may influence your decision to make the purchase.
Customer reviews are a good indication of the quality and validity of an item. Always take the time to peruse the customer reviews in search of trends that will help you to better understand what you are purchasing. Look for reviews on the platform you are purchasing from, but only if this is a third-party platform like Walmart or Amazon. If you are buying directly from a retailer's website, it can be difficult to trust the reviews you find there. In these cases, search online for third-party customer experience aggregators and look for reviews in these more trustworthy locations.
How to spot a fake customer review? Well, it's not always easy. However, if there is a prevailing trend of negative customer reviews, counteracted by one or two glowing reviews that state the exact opposite of the negative reviews, this is a possible warning sign. These could be genuine reviews, but if they go against the overwhelming weight of public opinion, they can be potentially fraudulent.
Understanding your item is key when considering how to tell counterfeit merchandise from real products. Do some research into the key aspects/characteristics, trademarks, and any other identifying features of your item and then look for these. Note that many fraudulent items will be very well made and may, in fact, carry many of the features and hallmarks of the real product. It is important to bear this in mind when going into as much detail as possible in your search for identifiable characteristics. If you have already purchased the item, do/conduct a thorough when the delivery arrives. There may be distinguishing features that are easier to spot up close. Remember to be careful when purchasing items and do as much of your own investigating before finalizing the transaction — it may not be easy to return the item, particularly if the seller is fraudulent.
Many customers wonder how to spot a counterfeit product, especially when many of the fakes themselves are such good visual reproductions/representations of the real thing. One of the key methods does not involve the product at all; instead, it's the point of connection between you and the retailer. If you have received an unsolicited email regarding a special offer, it's likely to be spam and could indicate fraud, even if the email has made it through your spam filter. Double-check the sender email to make sure it is verified. Remember that email and social media accounts get hacked from time to time, so be sure to check with friends or loved ones if you receive a special offer ad from them.
There are plenty of sources you can use to help you decide if you are dealing with potential fraudsters or the real deal. Even after you have checked all of the hallmarks of the item and the website it is hosted on, there may be red flags you did not notice. With this in mind, you could turn to third-party websites such as ConsumerReports.com, ScamAdvisor.com, and URLVoid.com. If a consumer has previously run into trouble, you may find that the website or the counterfeit seller is listed on these third-party consumer rights websites. However, the engage app may be a better option as information is gathered in one place and is easily accessible with just a quick scan from your smartphone.
Let’s say you’re diligent and go through every step mentioned above before making a purchase. There is still a possibility that you might end up with a counterfeit item, because, as we’ve said, counterfeiters have become experts at what they do. They’re doing their own research to find ways to scam customers, so you can be sure they’re always one step ahead of you, no matter how careful you are.
The good news is that we’ve created a cutting-edge app to help customers and brands alike avoid such situations. engage™ aims to help users verify the authenticity of an item in real time, with a simple scan of their smartphone camera. Using groundbreaking, state-of-the-art technology, the app scans product labels and lets you know if they’re authentic in a matter of seconds. Brands can keep track of their product-to-consumer journey and solve counterfeiting attempts in real time, while users can rest assured knowing that the item they’re about to purchase is legit.
Get in touch with our team for a free demo of engage™, to see how it can work for you.