It has been a weird and scary few weeks for everyone. While most of the world is banding together to help each other through, some nasty individuals are taking advantage of the situation, meaning that counterfeit products are rife and fake information can be found in abundance.
How has Counterfeiting changed?
Counterfeiting is not a new problem, every month we take down tens of thousands of links for clients across global online marketplaces. Within the pharmaceutical industry this is nothing out of the ordinary. Fake drugs and medicines have always been on the market, particularly within the developing world. However, this increased demand has caused counterfeit supply to skyrocket and the availability of dangerous medication is now higher than ever. This means that extra caution must be taken when buying medications online.
Additionally, we are seeing a significant increase in fake and suspect products in industries that haven’t been the target of these criminals before. Products such as hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial cleaners and face masks are now at the forefront of counterfeit enterprises as the legitimate supply struggles to meet demand.
For these companies, not used to this threat and at a time of great pressure, this can be a terrifying scenario. Brands, like these, should take a proactive approach, monitoring the biggest, most popular sites first and reaching out to marketplaces if a problem is discovered. This can be time-consuming, but I promise it works. If this is you, and you would like help or guidance, please do get in touch.
Ecommerce sites are trying to do their best. They are actively removing products that are explicitly advertising with terms including ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘Covid-19’, but there are ways around it and counterfeiters know this. Furthermore, with the vast number of counterfeiters attempting to sell their illegitimate products, it is a gigantic task. Nevertheless, the public is calling for them to do better.
As a consumer, what can I do?
Firstly, you need to be vigilant, keep an eye out for the red flags that might indicate a product or listing is not what it says it is. Make sure you know the answer to these quick questions before you press buy:
- Where is your product coming from? – the country of origin can be a giveaway that a product is dodgy, try to avoid sellers based in China.
- Is the price less than what you were expecting? – if the price of a product looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- What are other consumers saying about it? – have a look at the reviews, are there any? If so, do they look legitimate?
How easy is it to tell fake from real?
In many cases, deciphering the legitimacy of a product can be very difficult. I spend my life surrounded by fakes and copycats, I know what to look out for, but even I fell for it. When the talk of Covid-19 started to creep up I panicked. I had recently moved into a new place and my first aid provisions were certainly not up to scratch. I read about temperature being a key factor and how monitoring it was essential. For this, I would need a thermometer, and so I took to the internet and found the only one on eBay that promised delivery under 2 weeks.
£6 and 3 weeks later, the package dropped through my letter box. After giving it a thorough disinfectant, I opened my widely underwhelming package to find a flimsy and battered cardboard box containing a thermometer that could only rival a child’s toy. The plastic was scratched and evidently badly made, and there were no instructions. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a try, and, spoiler alert, it didn’t work. I was however, woken half-way through the night, many hours later, to the device beeping, an apparent alert that my temperature check was complete, how helpful!
In this case, I was only £6 and a couple of weeks of wasted time down. I don’t need a thermometer and my life doesn’t depend on it. For me this is a story of how I probably should be better at taking my own advice, for many other’s this could be a lot more dangerous. All I can say, is be careful. If something doesn’t look right, don’t risk it.
So, who should I listen to?
Unfortunately, it is not just fake products that consumers need to be aware of. Fake news and advice is rife at the moment, particularly on social media. A recent article published by Which summarised some of the outlandish claims that are being made, including how sunbathing can kill the virus. I would recommend giving it a once over if you have the time. Take everything you read with a pinch of salt, the abundance of incorrect advice means that right now the legitimate guidance is struggling to get through. We recommend sticking to the NHS and WHO websites for accurate and trustworthy information.
Times are tough for us all right now, but please know that we are here. If you need to talk about anything, don’t hesitate to get in touch.