Fighting Fakes

The growth of e-commerce has connected consumers across the world to brands, platforms, marketplaces, and other consumers. While this has resulted in many positive benefits, the rise of e-commerce has also connected U.S. consumers with an ever-growing network of criminal counterfeiters. 

Brand Protection Tips: Fighting Fakes While Shopping Online

Counterfeit products can hurt more than just the brands whose trademarks are being stolen. There is no incentive for fake products to follow safety regulations as these items are already operating outside of legal commerce by infringing on brands’ intellectual property, which means that they may cause harm to you or your family. Hazards like illegal chemicals in a product, missing safety mechanisms, and poor construction standards are good reasons to avoid counterfeit products.

Below is a checklist to inform your shopping decisions on online third-party marketplaces:

  • ☐ Is the online marketplace an authorized retailer of the brand? Many brands have a list of their authorized retailers online. Some brands even have a URL search tool on their websites for consumers to verify sites that are advertising and selling their products. Just because a website is not an authorized retailer of a brand does not automatically mean that the product is counterfeit. However, it does mean that you should be more cautious about your purchase.
  • ☐ Who is selling the product? When browsing an online third-party marketplace, it is important to keep in mind that a brand name listing does not mean that the product is coming directly from the brand. Look on the product listing to see if there is any identifying information as to who is selling the product. Many times, the listing might include a brand name in the title, but is actually for sale by a third-party seller not affiliated with the brand.
  • ☐ Where is the product coming from? Check to see if the product listing page includes any details about where the product is shipping from.
  • ☐ What do the reviews say? Online reviews can sometimes shed light on product authenticity, but it is important to remember that fake reviews are also common on third-party marketplaces. Even if a product has a high rating or is promoted and/or sponsored by the platform, that does not necessarily mean it is authentic. In fact, at times you’ll find product reviews about an unrelated product sold by the same seller.
  • ☐ Does the product description include any red flags? Sometimes a product description will include certain red flags that indicate authenticity. If the product title listing is overly descriptive and does not refer to a brand, yet includes a logo in the product image, the product could very well be a counterfeit. Additionally, if the description includes blatant misspellings or references to “replica” or “inspired” brands, the product is more likely than not a counterfeit.
  • ☐ What about images of the product? Counterfeiters can easily establish attractive “store-fronts” on third-party marketplaces to entice unsuspecting consumers. They will take copyrighted images directly from brand websites and use them to sell counterfeit product. For this reason, don’t rely on these images to inform your purchasing decisions.

AAFA Members:
Take part in AAFA's Brand Protection Council; explore our Brand Protection resources, news, events; and access our newest report "Fraudulent Advertising Online: Emerging Risks and Consumer Fraud," developed in collaboration with the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT).