The hidden dangers of counterfeit beauty goods

We’re supporting a new campaign by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) to raise awareness about fake beauty products. Find out about the dangers of counterfeit make-up, perfume and electrical hair stylers…

Fake make-up has been found to contain dangerous levels of lead, arsenic, mercury and even rats droppings

Home Office figures show that we spend at least £90 million every year in the UK on fake goods.

And vast quantities of these are bought online – through auction sites, online market places, rogue website and even social media sites.

In the last 18 months, PIPCU has suspended more than 5,500 website selling bogus luxury goods and they’ve seized more than £3.5 million worth of fakes.

One operation saw the unit seize a shipping container with what was believed to be more than 4,700 versions of one of the UK’s most popular beauty brands – including foundation, bronzer, lip gloss, eye shadow and eyebrow pencils.

Why are counterfeits so popular?

It seems the majority of people are encouraged to buy knock-off goods because they cost a fraction of the price of the real deal. But what many fail to realise is they could be putting themselves as risk as a result.

It has been revealed that…

  • Fake perfume can contain poisonous chemicals – including cyanide. Some have even been made with human urine.
  • Counterfeit eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss and foundation have been found to contain extremely harmful substances like arsenic, mercury and lead.
  • Fake make-up is often produced in un-sanitised factories, and rat droppings as well as poison have been found in some products.
  • Knock-off electrical beauty goods – like hair curlers and straighteners – are not subject to strict safety tests and they could cause electrocution or catch fire.

There’s not only a risk to health – by purchasing fakes online, consumers could be compromising their financial and personal details and exposing their computers to malware as well as other viruses.

Tips to avoid counterfeit fraud when shopping online

So how can you avoid falling victim to counterfeit fraud online? Here are ten tips from PIPCU…

  1. Trust your instincts – if an offer looks to good to be true, then it probably is. Legitimate designer items are rarely discounted.
  2. Check the spelling and grammar on the website and of the URL – often the people behind these sites do not pay a lot of attention or care to this detail.
  3. Look to see where the trader is based and whether they provide a postal address – if there is no address supplied or there is just a PO Box or email, be wary.
  4. Only deal with reputable sellers – only use sites you know or ones that have been recommended to you. If you have not bought from the seller before, do your research and check online reviews. You can also check if the website is legitimate by using the Brand-i website.
  5. Ensure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment.
  6. Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date – regularly update your internet browser when a new patch-security update is released.
  7. Don’t access links in unsolicited emails – fraudsters will design these, along with websites, to look genuine to trick victims into entering personal information, when in fact they are fraudulent. Always type in the website address or use a search engine to find a site.
  8. Ask the trader if there is a returns policy or guarantee – most rogue traders will not offer this.
  9. If you are not sure whether the items are genuine, do not enter your payment details – it is not worth the risk.
  10. Watch out for pop-ups appearing asking you to confirm your card details before you are on the payment stage – never enter your PIN online.

Suspect someone is involved in the sale of counterfeit items?

If you suspect someone to be involved in the sale or trade of counterfeit items, contact us anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through our Anonymous Online Form.