Record high inflation is affecting a range of consumer goods – including popular back-to-school products, from backpacks and shoes; to laptops and tablets; to art supplies and sports equipment. Families with elementary through high school children will spend an average of $864 on back-to-school shopping. Total spending will amount to over $34 billion, up 5.8% from last year.
Families understandably want to find the lowest prices; but not at the expense of their childrens’ health and safety. That’s why it’s important to understand the nature of counterfeit goods and learn how to avoid them. Counterfeit criminals are preying on vulnerable shoppers this back-to-school season, and their enticing deals are dangers in disguise.
Failing grades: Buying a fake good may save money in the short-term, but when it breaks, you’ll spend twice as much or more to replace the product. Knock off headphones might fall apart or worse, expose your child to toxic chemicals. Fake clothes may only last one wash before they’re unwearable.
Passing the test: If consumers, businesses and government work together, we can help stop the scourge of the counterfeit trade. Already, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is teaming up with the U.S. government to raise awareness about counterfeit back-to-school products.
You can join in, too, by educating yourself and others on how to #ShopSmart for safe, authentic goods. These top ten tips are a great place to start:
- Trust your instincts: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
- Insist on secure transactions: Make sure your payments are submitted via websites beginning with the https:// (the “s” stands for secure) and look for a lock symbol at the bottom of your browser.
- Watch for missing charges: Criminals trafficking in counterfeit goods often do not report their sales to financial authorities, and so they will omit sales tax and other fees. This often amounts to a noticeable difference in the final price. Buyer beware.
- Seek quality assurance in the secondary market: Reputable and reliable resellers have comprehensive inspection and authentication procedures and technicians to inspect the equipment they sell.
- Be careful purchasing medicine online: Over 96% of online pharmacies do not meet safety or legal standards. To find an accredited digital pharmacy, verify with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
- Be vigilant when buying abroad: When shopping on international websites, look for trusted vendors that use identifiable privacy security safeguards and have reasonable return policies.
- Guard your personal information: Illicit websites often install malware that can steal your credit card information and other information stored on your computer.
- Scrutinize labels, packaging, and contents: Look for missing or expired dates on perishable products, broken or non-existent safety seals, false warranty information, or otherwise unusual packaging.
- Report fake products: Report unsafe counterfeit products to U.S. Customs Border and Protection or the National IPR Center.
- Spread the word: Share these tips! Teach your family, friends and coworkers about counterfeits.
Just how big of a problem are counterfeit goods?
- A very big problem: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that international trade in counterfeit and pirated goods amounted to as much as $509 billion in 2016. From 2000 through 2019, seizures of infringing goods by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement increased from 3,244 to 27,599. Globally, it is estimated that counterfeiting has resulted in the loss of more than 2.5 million jobs and more than 60 billion euros in tax revenue losses among the G20 economies.
- The dark side of fake goods: Lost revenue and lost jobs pale in comparison to lost lives. The counterfeit trade shares well-documented ties to domestic and international terrorism, child labor, drug and weapons trading, and other criminal activity. Plus, counterfeit goods themselves carry significant safety hazards. For example, counterfeit backpacks and shoes may contain excessive levels of harmful chemicals; counterfeit electronics may melt, catch fire, or explode; and counterfeit toys may hide undisclosed choking hazards. Worse yet, counterfeit cleaning supplies, medicines, and cosmetics have left victims with debilitating injuries – some fatal.
Download Top 10 Tips to #ShopSmart
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Resources:
About the authors
Vice President of Brand Protection & Strategic Initiatives, Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director, Global Brand Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Brill is the Vice President of Brand Protection & Strategic Initiatives for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) and the Executive Director of the Global Brand Council.