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How to spot counterfeit goods online

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Shopping online makes it even harder to spot fake products. Here are five warning signs to look out for...

With the Covid pandemic forcing retailers to shut their doors, shoppers have been forced online. And while this may be more convenient, shopping on the web comes with its risks including spotting whether you’re buying a genuine product or not.

It can be difficult to identify ‘real’ products from ‘fakes’ – especially when you have to rely solely on limited descriptions and pictures online.

But buying a counterfeit product online doesn’t just mean being duped out of your hard-earned cash, it can also be dangerous, as fake products won’t have to meet the same health and safety criteria as the legitimate items.

Here, are five warning signs to look out for, courtesy of

Are you shopping on a trusted website?

It’s not unusual for consumers to turn to third-party sites or marketplaces to find the best deals, but these platforms have become a hotbed for counterfeit sellers.

Before making a purchase on a new website you don’t recognise, Google it to see what other shoppers are saying about it.

Also look out for grammatical and spelling errors, as often the people behind these fraudulent sites don’t pay attention to details. They may even try to deceive buyers by subtly changing the spelling of a well-known brand.

Is the price too good to be true?

The old adage applies when it comes to the price of goods online – if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. A hallmark sign of a fake product is that it costs a fraction of the real deal, despite appearing to be identical. This is because fraudsters can use cheaper materials to create the “replicas” which, whilst costing next to nothing, could also put consumers at risk.

So, if the price of an item is way below market value and sold by an independent seller, it’s likely that it’s fake.

What do the customer reviews say?

Customer reviews on independent review platforms help online shoppers ascertain the validity of a certain seller, website, or marketplace. Scope out reviews about the website and product you’re about to buy. How many reviews does the product have? What is the average rating? Has anyone voiced that they feel dubious about its authenticity?

How is payment being requested?

For online purchases, check that your payments are submitted via websites which begin with https:// and which are accompanied by a lock symbol. Legitimate online retailers tend to request payment via credit cards, debit cards, and PayPal at the least. Be suspicious if they are asking you to make a payment through a direct money transfer, such as a bank transfer.

Compare against the manufacturer’s official website

If you’re looking at buying a branded product like a pair of trainers or a designer handbag, check the item you’re looking at against the manufacturer’s official website. If you notice differences in the product description and design, or a significant difference in price, the item is probably fake.​

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