Since the pandemic online sales have risen dramatically with consumers spending 40% more online.
Many of these are new online shoppers, which means they may be more susceptible to fraud. With many planning to continue with online shopping, consumers need to be wary about the rise of counterfeit goods being sold online.
In 2019 31% of consumers have unintentionally bought a fake product online (up from 24% in 2018), of which 23% bought that item via social media, either through a post or a sponsored advert. Not only does buying counterfeit goods cost the UK economy billions in lost revenue and taxes but it could also cost you your life or health.
It’s not just fake luxury goods that you need to look out for. Criminal gangs sell fake food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, mobile phones and chargers, software, car brakes, and everyday household products like shampoo. The pandemic has led to a massive increase in the sale of fake Covid-related items. During March/April 2020 there was a 2,490% increase in fake face masks and a whopping 270% increase in non-genuine hand sanitiser and wipes.
Research from one ACG member brand protection company highlights that 32% of those who have bought one or more counterfeit goods have suffered a health issue as a result.
Phil Lewis from the Anti-Counterfeiting Group said, “Shopping in the midst of a pandemic means more people are opting to shop online from the safety of their own home. However, consumers need to be wary when shopping online, 83% of fakes come from China and Hong Kong.
“Shoppers need to make sure they double-check that what they are buying is not a counterfeit by reading consumer reviews,and confirming the payment credentials to make sure the items are being sold by an approved seller from the country they claim to be resident in.”
Banks and retailers have reported a huge rise in phishing and scams online and on social media. In April Barclays reported that 43% of scams took place on social media and Google reported a 350% increase in phishing websites since the start of the year.
While jobs and businesses have suffered during the pandemic sophisticated online criminals are making huge profits that fund serious crime. Fake goods imported to the UK are worth over a staggering £13bn and result in losses of £4bn to the retail and wholesale sector.
Across the world, governments, businesses, and societies are missing out on hundreds of billions in taxes, sales, and jobs. The money you spend on fake goods could be funding terrorism, organised crime, and factories that use child labour. Instead this money could be used for vital public services. A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has uncovered strong, “intricate links” between counterfeit goods and other serious offices, including illicit drugs, money laundering, and corruption.
By 2022, it’s estimated that the global economic value of counterfeiting and piracy could reach $2.3trn, according to a report from the International Chamber of Commerce. Brands, online platforms, law enforcement, and consumers need to work together to combat the increase in counterfeiting crime.
Platforms need to accept more responsibility to prevent counterfeits appearing on their sites and be faster at taking them and need to work in partnership with brands and law enforcement to make it happen. Online purchasing will continue to increase on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok looking to expand their shopping features.