The appeal of buying counterfeit goods is undeniable. They mimic pricier items at a fraction of the cost and are relatively easy to find and purchase. The market is so great for these items that according to MSN, "By 2015... the value of fake goods on the market could total as much as $1.7 trillion." That's more than the current U.S. budget deficit!

According to the article, some common counterfeited goods include:

  • Handbags and purses (I was unaware they are different)
  • Prescription medications (Fake Viagra anyone?)
  • Perfume
  • Shampoo
  • Honey (this was a real shocker)
  • Toothpaste
  • Maple Syrup
  • Baby Formula
  • Sunscreen

The real shockers above have to be honey and baby formula, and not because they are counterfeited, but because the counterfeits have been traced to significant injuries and even death. Fake honey can be tainted with lead and antibiotics, and baby formula can be replaced with chalk...yes..chalk. In fact, tainted baby formula has been linked to the deaths of dozens of children in China (link).

So not only is knowingly buying counterfeit goods a crime, but it's potentially very dangerous. What can you do to avoid buying fake products?

Tips to spotting counterfeit goods:

  1. Always buy from an authorized re-seller. Big name brick and mortars like Costco or Wal-Mart are less likely to sell fake goods. Well established Internet brands like Amazon or NewEgg are also trustworthy.
  2. Know what you're buying. If you're going to spend hundreds (or even thousands) on a handbag, do you research. A brand's website will show you what the stitching and lining should resemble. Inspect your goods for these consistencies prior to purchase.
  3. Check the country of origin. It's no secret that many counterfeit goods are sourced from Asian countries. However, this can make spotting a fake fairly simply. If you're buying a handbag you know is made in Italy with a "Made in China" label, you're buying a counterfeit.
  4. Understand some goods are counterfeited legally on purpose. Products like Maple Syrup or Wasabi are allowed to be faked under current legislation. If you've ever purchased the real version of either, you know how expensive the real thing can be.
  5. Check out the packaging. Counterfeit goods are often poorly packaged. Red flags should go off if you see materials that are mislabeled, contain spelling errors, are missing bar codes, or just don't look right.
  6. Beware bargains. At the end of the day, if something seems too good to be true, it is.