How to spot an online fake: companies fighting the counterfeit industry

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Instead of being considered an underground or secondary market, counterfeit products are now hiding in plain sight. (KFSN)

It's a billion dollar plus industry: online fakes. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the rise of e-commerce is bringing more internet scams. Now, instead of being considered an underground or secondary market, these counterfeit products are hiding in plain sight.

IN DEPTH: Read GAO report on online fakes

Craig Crosby of The Counterfeit Report says, "There is a real risk if you have to ask yourself, 'Is this item authentic?' I would shop elsewhere."

From tech gadgets to cosmetics, companies hire The Counterfeit Report to search the internet for fakes. Crosby says an effective way to spot a fake is checking to see if they exist in the manufacturer's official product line.

He says a common fake find is memory cards, "You'll see them branded up to 64GB and 128GB, but when they get to the real capacity they just erase your data and overwrite it."

Crosby says you can spot fake MAC makeup by looking closely at the "a" on the case. On the real product, the "a" has a gap in it, the fake connects. The real Paul Mitchell products sport cruelty-free logos, product codes, and look closely at the "t" it also doesn't connect.

Paul Mitchell School Director Erik Pedersen says, "John Paul DeJoria who owns John Paul Mitchell Systems has been working against counterfeiting and diversion for years even at the National, Capitol Hill level trying to get legislation passed with no avail."

Scammers aren't just going the designer or high-end route. Crosby found replica Secret Service and law enforcement badges on Amazon.com. But, fakes aren't limited to online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. You may not even know you're buying them.

If you're on social media and see that deal that looks too good to be true, chances are, it is.

Hydro Flask, based out of Bend, Oregon has seen at least 20 websites replicating their product. PR & Communications manager Lucas Alberg says, "We've heard various stories from consumers about not getting product, getting wrong product, or product that's completely fake."

He adds they've been taking steps to remedy the situation for almost two months, but can't comment on the investigation underway, "We are working with Facebook directly to get these shutdown because consumers are being driven through the ads by Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook," says Alberg.

In a statement, Facebook says it takes "IP (intellectual property) rights, including issues around counterfeiting, very seriously and we have built a variety of tools to help rights owners protect their IP rights on Facebook." The company adds that they are improving their response practices by, "Launching a counterfeit reporting form specifically dedicated to and improving how quickly we respond."

The Better Business Bureau says consumers can empower themselves by researching as much as possible. Check websites for a privacy policy and check to make sure the site itself is a secure https form. They add no contact information like a phone number or address, is a red flag. When in doubt use a 3rd party to pay like Paypal or your credit versus a debit card. That way scammers don't have direct access to your bank accounts.

FULL STATEMENT FROM AMAZON:
Our customers trust that when they make a purchase through Amazon's store-either directly from Amazon or from one of its millions of third-party sellers-they will receive authentic products, and we take any claims that endanger that trust seriously. We strictly prohibit the sale of counterfeit products and invest heavily-both funds and company energy-to ensure our policy against the sale of such products is followed. Our global team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to and take action on reported violations and notices of potential infringement.

In order to detect bad actors and potentially counterfeit products, we make significant investments in machine learning and automated systems. We employ dedicated teams of software engineers, research scientists, program managers, and investigators to operate and continually refine our anti-counterfeiting program. When a business registers to sell products through Amazon's Marketplace, Amazon's systems scan information for signals that the business might be a bad actor, and Amazon blocks identified bad actors before they can offer any products for sale. Amazon's systems also automatically and continuously scan numerous data points related to sellers, products, brands, and offers to detect activity that indicates products offered might be counterfeit. Over 99.9% of all Amazon page views by our customers landed on pages that did not receive a notice of potential infringement.

We also work closely with vendors, sellers, and rights owners to strengthen protections for their brands on Amazon. Any rights owner can enroll in Amazon's Brand Registry to manage and protect their brand and intellectual property rights on our store. More than 40,000 brands are enrolled in Brand Registry and are using our free service to better protect their brand and control product information displayed on Amazon-this means brands can ensure their information is accurate and customers can make confident, informed purchasing decisions on Amazon.

We encourage rights owners who have product authenticity concerns to notify us; we investigate all claims thoroughly. We remove suspected counterfeit items as we become aware of them, and we permanently remove bad actors from selling on Amazon. Amazon investigated and took action on 95% of all notices of potential infringement received from Brand Registry within eight hours. With our proactive innovations that learn from the information in Brand Registry, brands in Brand Registry on average are finding and reporting 99% fewer suspected infringements than before the launch of Brand Registry. We have also successfully taken legal action against bad actors and will continue to pursue litigation and work with law enforcement where appropriate.

Customers are always protected by our A-to-z Guarantee, whether they make a purchase from Amazon or a third-party seller. If the product doesn't arrive or isn't as advertised, customers can contact our customer support for a full refund of their order.

Customers trust that they will receive authentic goods when they shop on Amazon and anything that diminishes that trust is unacceptable. Counterfeit is an age-old problem, but one that we will continue to fight and innovate on to protect customers, brands, and sellers.
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Instead of being considered an underground or secondary market, counterfeit products are now hiding in plain sight.

FULL STATEMENT FROM EBAY:
Consumers can shop eBay's 1+ billion items with confidence, knowing we have key partnerships and processes in place with rights owners, law enforcement and government officials to ensure a safe shopping experience.

We have closely reviewed the items you sent to us and have removed them from our marketplace. Each of the product manufacturers for the items you sent to us participates in our VeRO program. We provide a direct line of communication into eBay to report items that infringe on their Intellectual Property rights - and we take prompt action. This has proven to be a very effective program in our efforts to combat counterfeits.

More eBay information on potential fakes:
  • In 2017, less than a fraction of a percentage point of all items listed on eBay had been identified as potentially counterfeit, which includes listings uncovered by eBay using its own preventive tools as well as through third-party VeRO reports.

  • More than 40,000 rights owners participate in eBay's VeRO program. Launched in 1998, VeRO allows brand owners to quickly and easily report possible counterfeits or other infringing goods. Additionally, if a shopper believes an item may be counterfeit, we allow them to "Report a Listing" at any time. The listing will then be reviewed promptly by eBay.

  • In the rare case a buyer believes that he or she has purchased a counterfeit item, eBay's Money Back Guarantee applies to virtually all transactions and will cover them accordingly.


FULL STATEMENT FROM FACEBOOK:
Our Terms of Service, Ads Policies and Commerce Policies prohibit people from posting content that infringes the intellectual property rights of third parties, including copyrights and trademarks. This includes a prohibition against the sale of counterfeit items.

Facebook takes IP rights, including issues around counterfeiting, very seriously and we have built a variety of tools to help rights owners protect their IP rights on Facebook. This includes tailored reporting forms to report content, as well as a specialized tool to efficiently identify and report content that brands think infringe their IP on Marketplace, buy-sell groups, and ads:
  • IP rights owners tools: Intellectual Property Help Center as well as streamlined and accessible online reporting tools to report content on Facebook they believe infringes their IP rights directly to our team, including a dedicated form for reporting counterfeit content.

  • Global notice-and-takedown program to respond to reports of IP infringement: This includes establishing a dedicated global notice-and-takedown team that provides around-the-clock coverage in multiple languages, and that promptly responds to reports from rights owners of infringing content on our platform, including counterfeits. When we receive such reports, we quickly remove the reported content. We also take additional measures as appropriate, including disabling the accounts of repeat and blatant infringers.

  • Improving our response practices: We are working to improve our practices regarding responding to reports of counterfeit goods. These measures include: launching a counterfeit reporting form specifically dedicated to and improving how quickly we respond to counterfeit reports (responding to almost all reports within 24 hours, and often in the matter of a few hours).

  • Commerce & Ads IP Tool: a specialized tool we recently launched that allows rights owners to search across Facebook ads and Marketplace and group sales posts for instances of their brand names and to report any content that they believe infringe their IP rights directly from the tool. The tool allows rights owners to save their contact and trademark information, so the reporting process is quick and efficient.
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