We’ve all seen classic knock off products, perhaps you’ve been tempted to buy them? You wouldn’t be alone. 40% of people in a UK survey admitted to buying pirated films and music or purchasing counterfeit clothing and accessories. This is despite the fact that 90% of respondents in the same survey agreed that it was “morally wrong”. Counterfeiting is a large and varied operation, but there are ways of protecting against it. So, what are some of the most widely counterfeited products and how can we be sure what we’re buying is genuine?
40%… admitted to buying pirated films and music, or purchasing counterfeit clothing and accessories
Alcohol is a big business and its not surprising that a large market of counterfeit alcohols has appeared. 18% of people admit to having bought counterfeit alcohol at some point, making it the third most popular counterfeit item. But this could be potentially dangerous, faked spirits may be contaminated with methanol, which much more toxic than ethanol (the normal ingredient responsible for alcohols effects). So how to tell the real from the fakes? Remember the four Ps, Product (look out for commonly faked products like Vodka), Price (if it looks too good to be true it probably is), Packaging (beware of shoddy packaging) and Place (only buy from reputable establishments)
Perhaps the most troubling area of counterfeiting is the area of counterfeited medicines. In 2015 Interpol’s operation Pangaea seized $81 million worth of fake drugs and shut down 2410 websites selling fake medicines. However, new techniques are being developed to tell if medicines are genuine. This revolutionary new technology uses atomic nanoparticles which are tagged and positioned with extreme accuracy to create a uncloneable security tag. A flash from a customer’s smartphone can make these particles luminesce and the pattern can be captured and decoded to prove the medicine is genuine. To replicate these counterfeiters would need to discover the exact position of tagged micro particles from the scatter pattern and then arrange their own nano-particles to match the manufacturers with pinpoint precision. These tags are perfectly edible and non-toxic so there are few safety concerns, and while current iterations only use black and white patterns, but newer techniques may introduce colour to increase the number of available barcodes.
We have a serious problem with forged currency. In the first half of 2017 £4.9 million worth of fake bank notes were removed from circulation – about 0.1% of all the banknotes out there. Coinage can be even more of a problem, with about 2.6% 0f pound coins circulating in 2015 being fakes. However, the release of the new 12-sided pound coin and new polymer 5 and 10 pound notes should mean a decrease in the amount of counterfeiting due to the increased difficulty. For example, the new £1 coin has images that change depending on the angle it is viewed from. It remains to be seen how effective these methods are, but officials seem hopeful.
Bots are an unfortunate part of many social media sites
Have a look at any Facebook post from a news organisation and check the comments, chances are up to 10% of these are faked. These come from “cash for likes schemes” firms offering to sell people likes it delivers via bots. Cons like this increase the perceived popularity of the original poster and can be programmed to espouse certain points of view, making it seem to the casual observer that the views are being held by the general public. This process is called astroturfing and doesn’t just affect Facebook. Bots are an unfortunate part of many social media sites, however many sites have developed systems for reporting these, as well as running their own checks. If you think you have spotted a fake account on Facebook, you can go to the profile, click on the ellipsis symbol in their cover photo and click “report”.