Black_Friday_Websites.jpgNot long after last year’s Black Friday, a press release described a successful operation combating the sale of counterfeit goods online, in which 999 websites were taken out of commission in just one sting operation.

While the operation was Euro-based, authorities from the United States acted in cooperation.The international and intercontinental effort underscores the fact that, when you go online for your Black Friday shopping, you may be contending with a complex counterfeiting network that’s probably international in nature.

What are the Chances That I’m Browsing Counterfeit Goods This Black Friday?

An estimated 7-8% of world trade each year involves counterfeit goods, according to STOPfakes.gov. If that approximate percentage is accurate, then U.S. companies alone are losing out on at least $250 billion due to the sale of counterfeits.

Cyber Monday (the one after Thanksgiving) poses as big a counterfeit problem as Black Friday. In fact, another operation last year closed down 37,479 websites believed to be selling bootleg products, according to the International Business Times.

That’s Really Unfortunate for Businesses, but how Does it Affect Consumers?

Counterfeiting is a very profitable industry for those who have no ethical qualms about piggybacking or outright stealing the intellectual property that others worked so hard for.

But those profits not only cost companies profits and jobs for the average worker, it also makes legit products more expensive.

Worse still, the consumer gets a second- or third-rate product that often falls apart in short order. These poorly manufactured products can also be dangerous to buyers.

It’s not hard to imagine a counterfeit high heel that breaks in mid-stride or a charger for an electronic gadget that catches fire. These unfortunate instances occur all of the time.

What Sites Should we Avoid?

While hundreds and even thousands of websites have been shut down because they were purveyors of counterfeit products on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and every other day of the year, there are many more sites to be wary of.

While outright avoiding the following sites may not be necessary, it’s worth seeking out red flags on the following sites:

  • Alibaba: China is where the majority of IP is stolen and repurposed. As a China-based site, use extreme caution if you’re doing any shopping here.
  • eBay: While this site opened up a whole new world of third-party sellers, opening a wealth of opportunities for rare items to customers, it has also been plagued with counterfeit items. Look closely at items that you’re considering for purchase.
  • Amazon: While it has been considered the “safe” place to shop, Amazon has encountered it’s own counterfeiting problems -- especially since it has opened up to third-party sellers and the Chinese market.

What are the Red Flags to Notice While Shopping Online?

There are a number of clues counterfeit items may reveal while you’re shopping online, including:

  • Spelling and grammatical errors: Many knockoffs do not come from the same country as the original product.
  • The “contact us” section: If there is no physical address associated with a website selling name brands, it may be that the site has something to hide.
  • The website registration: With so many counterfeiters coming from China, be suspicious of sites registered in China. If you cannot find where a site is registered, it’s another sign that something is being hidden for a reason.
  • “Http” vs “https” URL: If you’re giving out financial information, make sure the site is secure. “Https” is a sign of a secure site. Also, look for a highlighted lock symbol in your web browser.

The above red flags are just the tip of the iceberg to consider when online shopping on Black Friday. If you have a brand that you want to protect, we may be able to help you. You can review some of our many solutions here.