With Christmas day fast approaching some will have already finished their gift buying. But for the rest of us there will inevitably be the last minute Christmas Eve dash to the shops. Buying the right gift is always tricky but, perhaps worse than forgetting to buy a present, would be getting something which wasn’t as it first appeared. So how can we avoid being fooled, and make sure counterfeit goods don’t appear under our Christmas tree?

Counterfeit goods are big business – but at what cost? Far from being a “victimless crime” UK government figures suggest that the annual loss to our economy through IP crime is £9bn. Copycat goods can be such good replicas that it might be difficult to tell what’s real and what’s fake. So how can you tell the difference? Here are our top tips for staying on the right side of the line, this Christmas:

  • If something seems too good to be true then it probably is: everyone loves a bargain especially at this time of year but the saving won’t be worth it if you aren’t getting what you wanted. Don’t be fooled into thinking you are getting a great deal - go to a reputable store or official website and either purchase the product from there or get a feel for the real price before looking elsewhere.
  • Check the labels/quality of the product: counterfeit goods often include spelling mistakes or other distinguishing marks that don’t look quite right. If you are able to, examine the quality of the product. Does the material feel of the calibre you would expect from a brand of that nature?
  • Ask questions of the seller: do they offer an after-sales service, warranty, guarantee? How many days do you have to bring the product back if you require to? The rogue traders are unlikely to offer a service of this nature and may not have these answers to hand.
  • Ensure that an online retailer is legit: do some due diligence, try and find a physical address or contact details including a telephone number for the retailer. If you aren’t able to find this information then you would be wise to step away from the keyboard. According to a recent report 53% of consumers said they would likely buy a product that was described as “genuine”, “real” or “authentic”. However, reputable retailers have no need to advertise their products in this way.
  • Use credit cards when shopping online: doing so provides you with better protection when it comes to fraud, guarantees and non-delivery. When entering your payment details however, make sure that the link is secure. There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame not on the page itself. Also the website should begin with https://https:// with the “s” standing for secure. If the site directs you to a third party to make payment you should go through these checks again. Whilst this won’t guarantee your purchase is authentic, it will help protect your personal details.
  • Check the terms and conditions: always check the T&Cs to ensure that you can identify the company you are buying from. Terms and privacy policies should always be available online and if they are not, this should be a red flag, and cause you to consider if the seller is legitimate.

It is also worth noting that it’s not just the fact that you are spending your money on something fake that’s an issue. There are also real safety concerns to consider. More often than not counterfeit goods will not meet the safety standards that they are required to in the EU. This is particularly relevant when it comes to children’s toys or electrical goods. No saving is worth the potential dangers of bringing an unsafe product into your home.

Whilst we hope that there are no dodgy goods under your Christmas tree – you would do well to follow Santa’s example – after all he only delivers the genuine article!