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Are Those Goods Counterfeit, or “Real”?

Every year, millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit goods are brought into the United States and sold to unsuspecting — and even suspecting — consumers looking for a good deal [3]. Often, the counterfeit items are expensive, but not as expensive as buying the “real thing.” It seems as though you are getting a good deal, when really you are getting a knock-off.

For some people, that isn’t too big of a deal. After all, it looks like a high-end designer item, but it doesn’t come with the same price tag. However, some counterfeit items can cause real problems. According to CNN Money [4], here are the top 10 fakes coming into the U.S.:

  1. Electronics
  2. Shoes
  3. Drugs/Medications
  4. CDs and DVDs
  5. Clothing
  6. Perfume
  7. Watches
  8. Cigarettes
  9. Computer hardware
  10. Toys and games

One of the biggest issues that many cite with counterfeit goods is that when you buy these items, you are reducing the revenues to U.S. businesses. This can cost in terms of economic growth [5], and in terms of jobs. However, there are other issues to consider when you buy counterfeit items.

Problems with Counterfeit Items

One of the biggest issues is likely to be quality. While some knock-offs for clothing and shoes aren’t likely to have huge discrepancies in quality, that might be different when it comes to electronics, DVDs and computer hardware. Counterfeit electronic products and computer components probably don’t work as well, and likely won’t last as long. On top of that, getting customer support can be problematic; when you call in and there is no record of your device’s “serial number,” you could find yourself out what you paid, with a useless electronic device to boot.

For some items, the main problem is safety. Counterfeit medications may not contain all the same active ingredients that make the “real thing” work properly. The CNN article points out that some counterfeit medications include brick dust and other ingredients that might not be entirely safe. Safety issues can also arise with some toys, as well as perfumes. Cigarettes are already harmful, but counterfeit brands can have even more toxic ingredients, or be missing the filter that tones down some of the harmful effects.

Avoid Counterfeit Products

In order to save yourself some of the trouble that can come with counterfeit products, it’s best to avoid them. Before you make a purchase, carefully consider the source of the item. Also, consider whether or not it has gone through the proper checks. A bottle of pills [6] smuggled in from Mexico might not have been approved by the FDA, and it might do more harm than good. A movie that has only been out in theaters for a couple of weeks isn’t going to be on the street as a DVD already. You might end up with a low-quality pirated version of the film.

You can usually ensure that you aren’t getting a counterfeit item by going through authorized dealers and channels. You are less likely to purchase a defective counterfeit game if you buy it at a department store than if you buy it off the street. You might have to pay more, but at least you are reasonably sure that you are getting the “real thing.”

(Photo: benchilada [7])