New app rewards consumers for reporting counterfeits

From fake medicine to faulty electronics, the International Chamber of Commerce expects the value of counterfeit goods globally to exceed $1.7 trillion by 2015.
January 17, 2014 6:30:55 PM PST
From fake medicine to faulty electronics, the International Chamber of Commerce expects the value of counterfeit goods globally to exceed $1.7 trillion by 2015. Counterfeit goods are not only damaging to the economy, they can be dangerous, even deadly. This is because they are not subject to the same safety standards. Now there is a new app that helps consumers fight back.

Tsu Tsu Consignment Boutique in Fresno's Tower District sells pre-owned designer clothing and accessories. Owner Osry Tusdama explained how she knew a Chanel knockoff was fake.

"You would look at it, and you wouldn't be able to tell, but if you actually grab it and you really dig in your finger, you'll see it wrinkles up because it's not real leather. Every stitch has to be perfect. There's not going to be any strings hanging out like for example in that corner. In this case you can see where it's [the hardware] kinda just clasped together. If that was an authentic Chanel that would be one solid metal piece." Tsudama said fakes are frustrating both for her and her customers.

"It's heartbreaking at the same time, unfortunately, having to explain, your bag is not real. And we're not able to buy it. Because we can only authentic. It's against the law to sell knockoffs," Tsudama said.

Counterfeit goods are everywhere, from swap meets in Downtown Fresno to countless sites online. A quick search online of Gucci handbags brought up thousands of items -- many claiming to be authentic. But considering some of the listings are a tenth of the price of the real thing, what sounds too good to be true often is. And the supply seems endless. During a bust last February in the Port of Los Angeles, federal authorities seized 1,500 bogus Hermes bags. And the counterfeit problem doesn't stop at purses. Some of the most dangerous counterfeits can even cause injury or death, including unsafe electronics and drugs.

The problem inspired a new app called "uFaker" where consumers can report a fake and earn rewards like online discounts. We asked the creator, Jason Drangel, a New York intellectual property attorney, why consumers would be motivated to use it.

Drangel explained, "A lot of times the consumers have been duped and they don't want others to get duped so they're sharing the information about websites where they've made purchases and didn't know about it."

Drangel said since July of last year, 200 reports have come in through the app, which is then forwarded to the brand owners to conduct their own investigations. While the app might not make a huge dent in what Drangel calls a global epidemic, he said it's a start.

"It's gonna scare counterfeiters, it's gonna scare retailers to be on edge because consumers are going to walk into their stores and report them for selling counterfeit goods," Drangel said.


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