It's that time of year again. It's dark and dingy outside, Christmas is almost upon us and the call of getting an excellent deal – it's Black Friday on 24 November 2023, one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Whilst this is very exciting for many, and the opportunity to get a bargain is incredibly tempting given the current state of the economy, Black Friday also brings with it a darker side. Black Friday is Christmas for counterfeiters.
Counterfeiters take advantage of the hype around Black Friday deals by setting up fake lookalike websites and fake ads on social media, offering numerous counterfeit goods for sale. They heavily promote these counterfeit goods on Black Friday, because of its popularity, thereby duping and exploiting consumers. Victims either do not receive anything (and so lose their money) or they get counterfeit items which might be unsafe. Worse still, they may have their identity or bank details stolen. After all, no one wants to put a foundation on their skin that hasn't been properly tested to be safe, with no idea as to the ingredients in it? Or a television that might catch fire. Or their bank details stolen But the potential risks often get overlooked when faced with adverts for branded goods for less and 'bagging a bargain'. As well as the health and safety issues that counterfeit goods can cause, there is also the very concerning fact that the trade in counterfeit goods often funds serious organised crime groups involved in weapons, drugs, slavery, human trafficking and prostitution. No-one wants to fund this type of activity.
So 'caveat emptor' ('buyer beware'). What are the things to look out for, and what can you do to avoid buying counterfeit goods?
- Take your time – rushing to buy something is generally where people make a mistake because they haven't properly checked who or where they are buying goods from.
- Use brands' legitimate websites. Don't buy from a website if the URL looks strange, e.g., bfdeals.456!1.net. Another red flag tends to be if there is no legitimate business information on the website and/or if the website is littered with spelling errors, missing pages, etc.
- Don't click on suspicious links.
- Make purchases with a credit card as it adds a layer of protection. Many credit card companies also have a fraud protection team that can help you recover your money in certain circumstances.
- Avoid deals that try and rely on low stock or rarity to drive you to buy a product out of desperation – these might be sites offering counterfeit goods. The Competition and Markets Authority has recently been investigating 'urgency' claims such as these which can amount to potentially harmful selling practices and published a letter to businesses on 28 March 2023 to help them understand what they should and should not be doing when making such claims.
- Ridiculously low prices - generally, the golden rule is that, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. You can check the price of the product across multiple websites which may help determine what it should be.
Happy, and safe, shopping.