Counterfeits carry a high price. Over the course of 2018, counterfeit goods caused an estimated $323 billion in damages to the economy, and, for some consumers, even deaths. Fake products appear to be real, including packaging and design, but are lower in quality and unregulated. Lots of fakes are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.

There are 2 main types of counterfeits: Pirated products and knock-off products. Pirated items are products that are copyrighted that have been copied illegally and without permission. Knock-offs are close imitations of copyrighted products and designer products. Fake merchandise is surprisingly found in seemingly innocent platforms such as search engines and online marketplaces.

More than 1 out of every 4 consumers reported unknowingly purchasing non-genuine items online and a test in 2018 by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that over 2 of every 5 supposedly brand-name items it purchased online were fake.

Brands matter. The importance of avoiding fakes is unlike genuine goods, most fakes are badly made and rarely meet any safety standards, contributing to health and safety risks, among other drawbacks. The negative impact of fakes on the economy is huge. Chinese manufacturers are accused of stealing and reproducing the intellectual property of US companies, lowering the value of their work. The U.S. subsequently resisted with tariffs on imported goods, and Chinese manufacturers are paying the price. As a result, prices rise and consumers are forced to pay more for the same product. Rapidly escalating prices for the real products could increase demand for the cheaper, and lower quality, fakes.

Another downside to counterfeits is that counterfeit sellers can easily access personal information. Fake merchants present high risks for credit card fraud and identity theft. Illegal downloading sites quite commonly have malware which steals personal information and thieves can use stolen information to create a fake copy of credit cards.

What’s more, counterfeits can harm your brand’s reputation if consumers don’t know their poor-quality merchandise is actually a fake.

Find out how you can protect your brand’s reputation from counterfeits.

Infographic Source: Best Choice Reviews