The Growing Impact Of Counterfeit Products

The Internet offers a vast world of opportunities. From virtual schooling to finding employment, there’s almost no end to what people have been able to carry out online. Of course, not everything that has arisen is legal or ethical. One such illegal activity proliferated by the Internet and the rise of online shopping is counterfeiting. 

Although counterfeit products existed long before virtual marketplaces, the anonymity and accessibility of online selling have made the practice easier than ever. In fact, one study estimates the sale of counterfeits has increased by 10,000% in the last two decades. As a result of the upsurge and other driving factors, over $1 trillion in pirated and counterfeit goods were sold in 2021 alone. 

Counterfeiting not only impacts the brands whose products are being faked, but also the customers who have been deceived. How so? For one, certain products may be harmful or even toxic when incorrect or inferior components are used to cut costs. Examples of this include counterfeit skincare products that contain toxic elements leading to skin irritation or imitation prescription drugs that lack an active ingredient and exacerbate health issues.

How might online shoppers avoid bogus products? A common recommendation is to only purchase from trusted sellers. As just about anyone can sell something online, it’s important to be choosy. Shoppers should research any third-party sellers before making a purchase and steer clear of unknown or unrecognized websites. Consumers can also look to their peers by browsing through customer reviews and analyzing the seller’s social media presence. Other tips include being wary of ads seen on social media and of prices that seem too good to be true.

What can brands do to better protect themselves and their customers from counterfeiting? One method to help prevent — or at least minimize — counterfeiting is to use proprietary and serialized codes to enhance product monitoring throughout the supply chain. Along the same lines is adding unique taggants, QR codes and links to future products. These small details can go a long way in augmenting the authentication process.

Furthermore, it’s advised brands invest in modern marketplace risk management solutions. Using artificial intelligence and other state-of-the-art measures, these systems can boost the detection of dangerous, illicit and counterfeit products. In the event counterfeiters are identified, legal action in civil court should be taken to discourage further forgery. 

As online marketplaces continue to grow in sophistication, so too must the strategies for combating fraud. For further information on the potential dangers of counterfeit products and what can be done to avoid them, please see the accompanying resource.

Infographic created by EverC, a marketplace fraud prevention company.

Brian Farrell is a coach, helping clients achieve their personal and professional goals. He's also the creator of the "QA2 Method". For more about Brian, visit