If you’ve been following our blog, you’ve noticed the term “counterfeiting” here and there. It’s a huge issue in shipping and logistics, but it certainly doesn’t stop there. For the majority of people, the first thing that comes to mind is counterfeited goods. Fake handbags, knock-off sunglasses, inauthentic sneakers, and so on.

And while finding out that your designer clutch is actually a fake can be devastating to both your pride and your wallet, in truth, it could be much worse. Counterfeited goods are just the tip of the iceberg. In reality, counterfeiting is incredibly dangerous, especially when you wase into the waters of counterfeited food, drinks, and medication.  

The Counterfeiting Industry

Counterfeiting is a practice that goes back thousands and thousands of years, essentially to the genesis of commerce. For as long as there have been things for sale, there have been cheaper illegitimate versions being paraded as the original.

It’s Effects on the Economy 

Counterfeit products end up costing global businesses billions of dollars in losses each year. This, in turn, raises the overall cost of goods so that businesses can still be profitable while absorbing these staggering hits. In 2017 alone, total counterfeiting around the world reached 1.2 trillion dollars according to the Global Brand Counterfeiting Report 2018. And this number has been steadily increasing each year since. 

In truth, the majority of people would rather buy an original than a knock-off. But with new popular methods of shopping, and a large majority of consumers choosing to buy items on third-party selling sites from resellers, it is becoming increasingly tricky to discern between authentic and fake goods. 

Ultimately, counterfeiting is costly to the global economy. The sale of counterfeit goods branded under a legitimate brand’s name can be both damaging to a company’s reputation and profitability. And it doesn’t stop there. What it can do to a potential consumer is much, much scarier.

Why Counterfeiting Is So Prevalent These Days

What makes counterfeited goods especially worrisome is that they truly resemble a legitimate product in every way. According to The Fashion Law, “in order for a product to be considered a counterfeit, it must include another party’s federally registered trademark or one that is ‘substantially indistinguishable’ from the other party’s trademark.” So when you’re shopping online at a third-party-reseller site or an online auction site (think Amazon and eBay, respectively), and you see an item that is branded and packaged exactly how it should for a good deal, how can you really be sure that your money is going towards an authentic product? All you really have to go on are photographs, sometimes pulled from the actual company’s direct website, and reviews, many of which could be fake. And in a society that is always trying to cut costs, it gets even trickier. Consumers will naturally gravitate towards the best price without always taking the time to verify a good’s authenticity. 

The Dangers Of Counterfeiting

So let’s explore when counterfeiting goes from being an annoying and costly inconvenience to a scary and dangerous situation. Take medicine and pharmaceuticals. When counterfeiting in medication was still a relatively new practice, you were able to identify an illegitimate product by its appearance or the list of ingredients. As the practice has gotten more advanced, it is no longer an easy feat. The only foolproof method of differentiating is through chemical analysis.

Any and all prescriptions exist to tackle a specific health ailment, and a lot of patients rely on said prescriptions for their livelihood. Now imagine that instead of that medication, a patient was taking something like a sugar pill or worse, a pill with a different chemical structure and making than they should be. In the first instance, their symptoms are bound to worsen and their condition to deteriorate, but they won’t immediately understand why, further delaying the time in which they should be rushing to get their actual medication. And in the second instance, well, that all depends on what the chemical structure of the pill truly is and whether or not it’s safe for consumption. 

Either way, taking the wrong medication can have dire consequences, making counterfeiting in medicine and pharmaceuticals an incredibly scary and dangerous practice.

The Issue of Counterfeited Alcohol

Another and more recent example of how counterfeited items can be dangerous and unsuitable for consumption is alcohol. Recently, 19 American tourists visiting Costa Rica passed away while visiting the area. Tainted alcohol was shortly thereafter identified as the culprit. Additionally, Rolling Stone reports that tainted alcohol is also suspected to be behind the tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic that have yet to be explained.

The alcohol in Costa Rica was laced with methanol, a chemical also found in anti-freeze and windshield wiper fluid. Methanol is incredibly toxic and when consumed, can cause liver damage, blindness, and ultimately, can prove fatal. 

To make matter worse, all of the affected alcohol was manufactured by well-known brands like Guaro Montano, Guaro Gran Apache, and Aguardiente Estrella. Because all of these brands are registered with the Ministry of Health and have never caused issues like this in the past, the Costa Rican government believes that counterfeited product is to blame.

According to Monica H. Swahn at Quartz, “counterfeit or illegal alcohol is part of a larger category described as ‘unrecorded’ alcohol because it is not recorded in official statistics and not monitored for quality or for taxation.” And while it may not be a common issue in American, it is estimated that about a quarter of the alcohol consumed across the globe is unrecorded.

So What Can You Do To Be Safe?

  • Educate yourself. The more you know about current trends and what’s going on, the safer you can be. 
  • Don’t always gravitate towards the lowest price. Saving money is always welcomed, but not if it puts you in danger. 
  • And most importantly, always err on the side of caution! Be vigilant, pay attention, and always trust your gut instinct. 

The Future of Counterfeiting with Blockchain

As blockchain becomes increasingly prevalent, there is hope for a future with fewer counterfeits. Blockchain will add visibility and accountability into the supply chain, so supply chain managers will be able to pinpoint any suspicious activity in a matter of seconds. Additionally, blockchain will provide an immutable product history which will allow vendors and customers to verify a good’s authenticity. To learn more about blockchain, and see whether or not your business is ready to leverage the revolutionary technology, get in contact with us!