First Step to Stop Counterfeiters – Your Shoes

Photo (cc) by Andrea Rinaldi

When I was 15, I jumped on a bus near my suburban home and rode to downtown Atlanta with a couple of buddies. While walking in a shadier part of the city, we noticed a guy signaling us from an alley. He told us he had some very expensive watches for sale, implying they were stolen. I bought one for $20 bucks, reveling in my walk on the wild side and slapping myself on the back for getting something cool for practically nothing.

That was my introduction to both counterfeit products and the “fake stolen goods” scam – one of the oldest tricks in the book.

Although that was four decades ago, counterfeit goods are still thriving today. It’s a big problem for consumers and some of the world’s most iconic brands. According to the most recent information compiled by the federal agencies tasked with dealing with intellectual property rights – the Customs and Border Protection Bureau and the Customs and Immigration Bureau – in fiscal year 2009, there were about 15,000 seizures in the U.S. with a combined value of value of about $261 million. Of that total, about $205 million were products imported from China.

While it’s hard to feel pity for luxury goods manufacturers that sell purses for $1,000 or watches for $10,000, unfortunately it’s not just the highly paid who lose on counterfeiting.

Why counterfeiting matters

If you’re the type that loves a deal or yearns for the prestige that comes with a luxury name, you’ve probably been tempted by come-ons from the Internet or a downtown sidewalk to buy everything from fake Rolex watches to fake Gucci purses. Hopefully you have enough sense to know they’re counterfeit – you can’t buy a Gucci purse for $20 – but maybe you think to yourself, “Why not?” Well, here’s why not…

1. You’re giving money to someone dishonest. Would you leave your house unlocked to keep your local burglar employed? Selling counterfeit stuff isn’t legal, nor is it ethical. It’s not fair to con people into fake stuff – even naive high-schoolers out looking for trouble. The sellers of this junk should do what you do: Work an honest job. And since nearly all knock-offs originate overseas, you might also be supporting a sweat-shop.

2. You’re taking money from someone honest. If enough people buy dishonest stuff, they’re ultimately costing honest jobs. If you would have bought a genuine Gucci purse, you’re costing a Gucci employee their job. If you would have bought a less expensive non-knockoff from another purse manufacturer, you’re costing that company’s employees jobs: maybe American jobs. Either way, buying counterfeit results in money that could have gone to honest workers and management going to support dishonest ones.

3. You’re buying lousy stuff. Those who illegally make counterfeit items certainly have no incentive to do a quality job. After all, it’s not like their customers will be able to complain. And the manufacturers of some products – like pharmaceuticals – are so twisted, they’ll put people’s lives at risk just to make buck.

In our status-crazy and budget-conscience society, it’s easy to understand why we’re tempted to buy counterfeit stuff for the name or the price. But if you’re on a tight budget, remember that sometimes quality is worth paying for – and that’s definitely true in the case of your health. As for status, if you’re so desperate to impress that you’ll knowingly buy inferior knock-offs in order to fool people, maybe it’s time to stop being as shallow as a puddle.

What’s getting counterfeited?

Simply ensuring the shoes you’re buying are “real” will halt the sale of nearly 40 percent of all fake goods; at least, if the seizures by the above federal agencies accurately represent the overall flow of counterfeit goods to America. Below are the 10 most common categories of goods seized, along with their dollar value and percent of the total.

  • Footwear $ 99,779,263 38%
  • Consumer Electronics $ 31,773,625 12%
  • Handbags/Wallets/Backpacks $ 21,501,614 8%
  • Wearing Apparel $ 21,462,276 8%
  • Watches/Parts $ 15,533,922 6%
  • Computers/Hardware $ 12,546,098 5%
  • Media $ 11,099,758 4%
  • Pharmaceuticals $ 11,057,991 4%
  • Jewelry $ 10,499,243 4%
  • Toys/Electronic Games $ 5,503,143 2%
  • All Other Commodities $ 19,941,004 8%

Avoiding counterfeits: If it looks to good to be true…

The easiest way to avoid being taken is to avoid being greedy. Even at the tender age of 15, I should have known that nobody is going to sell a $5,000 watch – even a stolen one – for $20. And of course, today’s crook doesn’t have to hang out in an alley – they now often hang out in cyber-space.

So be aware of the products most likely to be counterfeited, and learn how to spot fakes by studying the workmanship and detail of the real McCoy. There are only two reasons high-priced products are high-priced: They’re either extremely well-made, or you’re paying for a name. You should be able to tell if a product is well made. If you can’t, you’re paying for the name and shouldn’t be buying it anyway.

And remember that just as it doesn’t take much effort to set up a display table on the sidewalk, it also doesn’t take much effort to set up a professional-looking website: almost no effort to sell on Craigslist, eBay, or other sites.

There are ways to verify an online business: Check them out on complaint sites, make sure they have a physical address in the U.S., pick up the phone and talk to the company. But the two most important things you can do both online and off are to deal with companies you know, and go with your gut. If the deal is too good to be true…

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 Monthly Bills You Can Easily Negotiate Down
5 Monthly Bills You Can Easily Negotiate Down

Here’s how to bring down recurring expenses and save hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars each year.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2020
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2020

Follow these tips to save — so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

How to Get Rid of 6 Hard-to-Sell Things
How to Get Rid of 6 Hard-to-Sell Things

Find out where to sell, donate or recycle items — and feel good about it.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach
10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach

Does the pandemic have you reaching for bleach more than ever before? Learn the ins and outs of using this powerful disinfectant.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

11 Things You Should Never Buy Without a Coupon
11 Things You Should Never Buy Without a Coupon

With just a little planning, you can save money on numerous everyday purchases.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.