Shoppers looking for gifts for their loved ones this Valentine’s Day are being urged to be on the lookout for counterfeit goods.
Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards team is reminding people that counterfeit goods could be offered to them on social media, online or at local markets.
Popular fakes at this time of year include cosmetics, perfumes, toiletries, branded clothing and alcohol.
Fakes are often poor-quality imitations that will leave people out of pocket and could also be harmful to their health. Legitimate traders also suffer as a result of counterfeit sales; harming the local economy in the process. Money made also goes into the pockets of organised criminal gangs.
Over the last few years Staffordshire's Trading Standards officers have seized millions of pounds of fake goods.
Victoria Wilson, Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council said: “This is a busy time for the team as we see more counterfeit goods in the market. It’s typically perfumes, designer candles, branded clothing and alcohol, and we know a really cheap price can be tempting.
“We’re now reminding people to be on their guard for counterfeit items. Fakes can be really hard to detect just to look at, so when something is being sold at a knock-down price, people should be extremely wary. We always say that if something is too good to be true, it usually is.
“Anyone who buys counterfeit goods will land themselves with poor quality and possibly dangerous goods while helping line criminals’ pockets. It’s our job to protect the public and legitimate business and we will continue our fight against counterfeiters.”
To avoid counterfeit goods, people should look out for the "3 Ps":
• PRICE: If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
• PACKAGING: If the product is being sold without its packaging, or the packaging appears to be of low quality, or includes printing errors (for example, blurry pictures, typos, spelling or grammatical errors) it is probably counterfeit.
• PLACE: Consider where the product is being sold. If it’s in-store, ask yourself if you would normally expect to find the product sold in this type of environment. Deal only with legitimate, established retailers. If buying online, counterfeiters often steal pictures and formatting from the real websites to make their websites look legitimate, so don't be fooled by a professional-looking website.
If you find typos, grammatical and spelling errors, or incomplete information, then the site is probably fake.
To report counterfeit goods sales call the anonymous Staffordshire Fight the Fakes line on 01785 330356.
Some of the hidden dangers of counterfeit goods include:
Counterfeit perfume can often burn skin or leave a nasty rash and may contain lead
Counterfeit alcohol such as vodka contains dangerous chemicals which can cause many health problems such as blindness
Fake sunglasses often offer no UVA protection, causing eye damage
Fake tobacco often contains unknown chemicals
Counterfeit children's toys can often be unsafe with unsuitable small parts and children's clothes may be inflammable.
People can report the sales of counterfeit goods to Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.