Do you know how to spot a counterfeit?

During the COVID-19 pandemic the production and sale of counterfeit goods has continued to be a growing and complicated problem worldwide. According to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) there has been a rise in the number of fake pharmaceuticals, as well as coronavirus products such as fake testing kits, fake Personal Protection Equipment, and even fake medicines claiming to cure the virus.

However, even the most mundane and everyday products can be the target of counterfeiters. From fake cigarettes and alcohol to personal care items, counterfeit products are getting more sophisticated, making it difficult to spot what’s fake and what’s not. With the possibility of so many dodgy products in the marketplace, how do you spot a counterfeit one? 

Here are our 8 handy tips to stay one step ahead of those flogging fakes online.

1. Price

If the price is low, you could be at risk of buying a bogus bargain. A heavily discounted branded item is a sure sign that something is not right. As the old saying goes, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is. Do your research. Find out the regular recommended retail price and compare. Be wary if the product is not for sale directly from the product’s official website. it’s also good to check if the website selling the item is an authorised seller or distributor.

2. Method of Payment

Only use a secure method of payment on a website that starts with ‘https’ and has the symbol of a padlock at the start of the URL. This indicates that the website is encrypting your data when you enter your details. Alternatively, use a payment provider like PayPal as they offer protection should something go wrong. Watch out for websites that don’t have an official address or returns policy. Never wire money using an intermediary or online bank transfer.

3. Product descriptions or differences

One clue that a product might be counterfeit is if an identical product can’t be found on the official site of the retailer. There might be slight differences in design or different product descriptions. Find out the ingredients or the material the product is made from or the official dimensions. Often a product description might contain spelling or grammatical errors or blurry, suspicious images. If there are irregularities, don’t take the chance.


Customer reviews can be a good way to check purchase history and customer satisfaction. Check the seller ratings and any issues previous purchasers have experienced. However, be aware of reviews that are old or related to a different product. Some websites have been known to post fake reviews or give incentives in return for glowing reviews. Do not be fooled by reviews that may seem over-the-top or have an unusual use of language.

5. Shipping and manufacturing

As part of your research, find out where the product is originally made and where the shipping should be from. What are the timeframes for delivery, are they realistic or suspicious? Be wary of products coming from countries with a history of manufacturing fakes. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicates that China and Hong Kong are where most fakes originate from. 

6. Be savvy on social

Stay alert on social media as pop up ads and sponsored ads can be tempting. Remember these ads are targeting you and advertisers have paid to do so – be careful where you click. Some of these paid ads have been known pose as well-known brands, duping consumers with flash sales, bogus websites and the promise of goods that never arrive. 

7. Watch your timing

Take care around peak shopping events like Black Friday, Easter, Christmas and Halloween as these are times were fraudsters delight in targeting shoppers. Ask yourself, is it really a bargain? Do you really need the item? Don’t fall for a false economy.

8. Packaging and manufacturing

If goods have arrived and you are suspicious, check the packaging and quality of the items. What is the embroidery like, are the lids sealed and intact?  Does the labelling and packaging look authentic? Is it missing any special marks or features? Luxury brands will not be sent in cheap packaging or without suitable packaging. If you think a product is fake, contact the seller and make a complaint to the online marketplace or shop you purchased it from.

BogusBuster is here to help you stay one step ahead of fraudsters. Check out our handy top tips to protect yourself.