Can you spot these 10 common fakes?: Internet Scambusters #496
Although we've written about common fakes before, this week we pull all that information together and mix in some new tricks from the con artists.
It seems that for almost every genuine item, there's a counterfeit version -- usually a lot cheaper but sometimes downright dangerous.
In this issue, we highlight 10 of the most common types of fakes, with guidelines on how to spot and avoid them.
And now for the main feature...
10 Most Common Fakes and How to Avoid Them
The counterfeiting industry is a multi-billion dollar business with the most common fakes raking in a fortune -- but sometimes doing untold damage in the process.
For example, phony drugs have been known to cause serious illness or even death, while counterfeit event tickets bring misery and sometimes a courtroom visit for innocent victims.
This week we take a look at 10 of the most common fakes categories and offer some advice on how to spot and avoid them.
Fake Drugs Scams
Since we already mentioned this, let's start with fake prescription drugs, potentially the most dangerous counterfeiting scam.
These are usually sold online through bogus pharmacies but you can also buy them abroad in countries that don't regulate drug manufacturing and sales.
When you buy meds from these places, you run the risk that they will be impure or total fakes. Either way, they could ruin your health or kill you.
Action: Don't buy from unregistered pharmacies. It's not worth the risk.
Check out this earlier Scambusters report for more help, Using Online Pharmacies: Recommended Practices and How to Spot Fakes.
Fake Jewelry and Precious Metals
This is another subject we've covered previously and, of course, there's a flourishing legitimate industry in costume jewelry that's made to look like something it's not.
What you need to be on the lookout for are cheap items that are portrayed as being genuine valuables.
These include supposedly rare coins, zirconium copies of gemstones, and bogus bullion.
Action: As with all common fakes, the price is usually the most obvious giveaway.
You should also never buy from someone who stops you in the street or parking lot with jewelry or metal they say they found or need to sell for some emergency purpose.
Often they work with an accomplice who feigns interest in the deal or claims to have had a similar item valued.
And if you're considering buying a big ticket item from an unusual source, have it authenticated by an expert first.
Fake Tickets and Autographs
People have ended up in court for selling bogus tickets and autographs -- but sometimes they're innocent victims themselves, having bought the counterfeits from crooks for reselling.
Fake tickets are increasingly common. They're offered on online classified ad sites like Craigslist and sometimes by scalpers outside of venues.
Phony autographs turn up at collectors' fairs and on Internet auction sites.
In some cases -- wall prints for example -- documents are legitimately described as "estate signed," meaning signed by someone (or even a computer) on behalf of the named person.
These "proxy" signatures are also common with sporting items like bats and balls, which were often signed by sporting heroes' assistants.
This is fine, as long as it's made clear the signature is not an original, but often you're not told.
Unfortunately, too, so-called "provenance" -- documentary "proof" the item is genuine -- sometimes turns out to be forged.
Action: Only buy from reputable, trustworthy sources. Have expensive autographs checked by an expert.
Fake Electronics and Software
The most common fakes in this category are mobile devices usually originating in China, USB memory sticks that have been "doctored" so they appear to have a greater capacity, and otherwise-expensive software, like Microsoft Office, mainly coming from Eastern Europe and sold at knockdown prices.
Mobiles and memory sticks, with forged brand names, usually work but are of poor quality and won't last.
Fake software is a straight rip-off of the real thing. It's illegal and often cannot be updated. Ownership could land you in legal hot water.
Action: Again, low price is the giveaway. For example, high capacity USB drives that are offered for 10% of their normal street price.
Websites selling counterfeit software usually offer them as downloads and have no address or other contact details.
If you're traveling in China, don't be tempted to buy electronics or software.
Fake Music and Movies (DVDs)
Much the same applies to this category as with software.
Action: Modern computer and printer technology makes it pretty easy to print labels and inserts for these products but usually the labels are poor quality while the inserts are on flimsy paper.
With music CDs, the sleeve notes are usually absent.
Knock-off Fashion Items
Common fakes in this category include sun-glasses, purses, luggage and polo shirts.
Street and market vendors, notably in Turkey and Italy but also other parts of Europe, sell these items.
You will also find them in Internet auctions and on dubious retail websites.
Action: Bargain prices and the selling locations are the main clues.
You may be tempted to buy, even though you know it's a fake. Chances are the item will quickly fall apart.
4 More Common Fakes
Rather than spotlighting one more item, here's a list of other common fakes to be on the lookout for:
- Perfume -- again sold by street traders but also sometimes turns up in discount stores; often uses a slightly different name to stay within the law.
- Sporting items -- mainly tennis shoes and golf clubs sold online.
- Art -- believe it or not, crooks do try to pass off copies of famous art works as originals, as well as works by lesser-known artists. See this interesting post on eBay, eBay Guides - Fakes scam art.We also covered the broader field of fake antiques in this earlier issue, Antiques Scams 2: The 10 Key Questions to Help Cut Your Risk.
- Auto parts -- the danger here is that an auto repair shop might be using poor quality fakes, either deliberately or unknowingly. Dangerous!Question mechanics carefully about where they get parts from and, if they're not authorized dealers, ask to see the packaging.This may sound over the top, but if we're talking brakes, it could be a life-threatening issue.
Sadly, the golden rule for criminals seems to be, "if they make it, you can fake it."
Hopefully this round-up will alert you to some of the most common fakes and help you resist temptation, so your reply can be, "if they fake it, I'll forsake it"!
Time to close today, but we'll be back next week with another issue. See you then!