Shoppers are being reminded to be aware of counterfeit gifts when shopping in the run up to Valentine’s Day.
The warning, from Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards team is reminding people that counterfeit items could be offered to them at local markets, on social network websites and online.
Popular fakes at this time of year include jewellery, clothing, cosmetics, perfumes and alcohol.
Counterfeit goods are often poor-quality imitations that will leave people out of pocket and could also be harmful to their health. Legitimate traders also suffer as a result of counterfeit sales; harming the local economy in the process. Money made also goes into the pockets of organised criminal gangs.
Over the last few years Staffordshire’s Trading Standards officers have seized millions of pounds of fake goods.
Gill Heath, Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council said: “The run up to Valentine’s Day can be a fairly busy time for shoppers and we’re just reminding people to be on their guard for counterfeit items.
“Fakes are increasingly hard to detect just to look at, so when something is being sold at a knock-down price, people should be extremely wary. We always say that if something is too good to be true, it usually is.
“Anyone who buys counterfeit goods will land themselves with poor quality and possibly dangerous goods while helping line criminals’ pockets. We want to protect the public and legitimate business and we will continue our fight against counterfeiters.”
To avoid counterfeit goods, people should look out for the “3 P’s”:
• PRICE: If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
• PACKAGING: If the product is being sold without its packaging, or the packaging appears to be of low quality, or includes printing errors (for example, blurry pictures, typos, spelling or grammatical errors) it is probably counterfeit.
• PLACE: Consider where the product is being sold. If it’s in-store, ask yourself if you would normally expect to find the product sold in this type of environment. Deal only with legitimate, established retailers. If buying online, counterfeiters often steal pictures and formatting from the real websites to make their websites look legitimate, so don’t be fooled by a professional-looking website. If you find typos, grammatical and spelling errors, or incomplete information, then the site is probably fake.
Some of the hidden dangers of counterfeit goods include:
Counterfeit perfume can often burn skin or leave a nasty rash and may contain lead
Counterfeit alcohol such as vodka contains dangerous chemicals which can cause many health problems such as blindness
Fake tobacco often contains unknown chemicals
To report counterfeit goods sales call the anonymous Staffordshire Fight the Fakes line on 01785 330356.