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Special report: Ferreting out fakes

Special report: Ferreting out fakes

Counterfeit wristwatches and handbags used to be restricted to back alleys. But these products are now swamping the Internet on a massive scale.

June 20, 2010 11:38 by

Like most 20-somethings, my daughter knows practically everything. She especially knows how to shop and how to find bargains, and often fastens onto me a pitying gaze when she spies me buying retail, at an actual store. That is so 20th century!

The only glitch in her savvy consumerism is that she has ended up with a closet full of fakes. Fake handbags, fake dresses, all bought on the Internet at “amazing” prices. How do we know? Sometimes the label is too dark or the buttons carry a different logo. Sometimes it’s the improbable color. Every time she tells me, breathless with excitement, about the “D&G this” or “YSL that” that she claims to have scored for next to nothing, I groan. Is this the same clever girl who scored in the top 1 percent on her college entrance exams?

Hope springs eternal, and so it is with the hundreds of thousands of people who buy branded goods online or from sidewalk vendors at extreme bargain prices. They can’t believe their good fortune, nor should they. Every day people worldwide are being duped by counterfeiters – participants in a giant $700 billion industry that is expanding so fast it could be traded as a growth stock. Although designer apparel and accessories are a large part of the trade, counterfeiters have climbed up the value chain.

Robert Taylor, manager of Eastman Kodak’s Security Solutions operation, says that the crooks have broadened into much more dangerous territory, selling ersatz food and beverage products as well as fake industrial goods such as airplane and automotive parts. Kodak works with suppliers in these fields as well as pharmaceutical companies and makers of collectibles – such as expensive trading cards or high-priced wines – all of whom find their products either being copied or stolen and sold on the black market.

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