How to spot online counterfeiting

Last update : May 2019

In a search engine

When using a search engine to shop online, be wary of websites referenced at the bottom of the page or on the second or following pages. Large brands nearly always appear front and center on search engines, often paying for this prized location. But be cautious at these links too: websites on the first page are not necessarily official! False websites can sometimes be optimized on search engines to appear on the first page.

In the search engine's results, pay attention to the description (aka snippet) found under the website's link. The snippet usually provides a brief description of the brand. A counterfeit website's snippet usually shows a series of product names followed by words like "cheap", "free delivery", "savings", "women", "men", or a price reduction. These words correspond to the keywords consumers would type into a search engine when shopping for these products.

On the website

  • Verify who made the website by checking its origin country via WHOIS, DENIC (for .de websites), AFNIC (for .fr websites)
  • Compare the prices shown with the brand’s official store. Be suspicious when prices are low or when there is a large price reduction
  • Make sure that the website’s sitemap includes legal mentions which provide the vender’s contact details and the Terms and Conditions
  • Compare the brand’s logo with the one shown on the website in question
  • Carefully read the offers, the Terms and Conditions, etc. on the website. If they have spelling or grammar mistakes, the website could likely be fraudulent. Brands and official partners pay close attention to their usage of language on their websites.
  • Finally, pay attention to the proposed modes of payment: if you want to buy a product but worry it is counterfeit, always ensure that you can see and actual picture of the product before buying. Often a counterfeit website will ask for advanced payment. Avoid cash payments via money order, which do not carry guarantees.

With the brand

Verify with the brand if the vender you are intending to buy from is an authorised seller, and indicate any unauthorised seller to them.

Certain high-tech or luxury products are limited to be sold in a small distribution network. Thus it is impossible that these products could be sold new on a third-party website. Products proposed as such are necessarily counterfeit or at least not authorised to be sold, despite the website’s claims.  

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