Why buying counterfeits are a bad idea

According to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC) about 18% of the $98 million of counterfeit products seized by U.S. Customs in '02 were made up of fashion-related items: apparel, sunglasses, watches, handbags and headwear.

While it's not a crime to buy counterfeit merchandise (only to sell it), there are legitimate reasons why you should rethink your buying tactics according to the IACC:

1. Counterfeiting robs the U.S.
alone of more than $200 billion a year. It's a cash, tax-free business; legitimate citizens like yourself will still get stuck paying taxes, while counterfeiters line their pockets at your expense.

2. Terrorists, gangs and organized crime syndicates all profit from selling counterfeit merchandise. Sometimes designer handbag knockoffs are lined with drugs and used for smuggling things like heroin, too. There is also evidence that the bombing of the World Trade Center in '93 was funded by the sale of counterfeit apparel.

3. You might realize that things like knockoff toys or electronics are an unsafe idea, but did you know that even items such as fake sunglasses can hurt you. According to IACC counterfeit sunglasses can shatter easily; they may fail to provide UV protection as advertised.

How to spot a fake

Knockoff designer goods are readily available on the street in such areas such as Los Angeles' Santee Street and New York's Canal Street.

And the internet is full of online auctions and cybersellers offering "Inspired by" copies and outright fakes.

The old method of spotting fakes was simple: flimsy hardware, cheap leather and misspelled logos were a giveaway.

Now, fakes are so good (and expensive) that you simply can't tell the difference.

So how do you know what's real and what's not?

Some clues:

  • The price. A new Chanel handbag for $100 is not authentic. The real thing often sells for $500 to well over $1000. Same thing for Prada and Gucci.
  • Where it's being sold. Authorized dealers for Chanel, LV, etc. do not sell handbags out of the trunk of a car. Nor do they sell them at online auctions or at home parties.
  • Point of origin tag. Designer apparel or leather goods with a "Made in Taiwan" tag are not authentic.