’Tis the Season for … Dangerous Fakes?

By Tom Donohue, President & CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in Free Enterprise

The holiday season is in full force, and with it, the last-minute dash for gifts. As the hottest toys and the latest gadgets fly off the shelves, consumers search high and low to fulfill their loved ones’ wish lists. Whether hunting for a bargain or trying to get their hands on a sold-out product, shoppers should beware of dangerous fakes or too-good-to-be true scams.

The best way to stop counterfeiters and pirates is not to buy their stuff. A lot is at stake—like consumer safety and personal security. Moreover, the intellectual property-intensive industries that generate consumer goods, fashion, entertainment, technology, and so much more employ 40 million Americans and account for 38% of GDP. Illicit goods cost the U.S. economy $215 billion annually.

Here are a few things to look out for this holiday season:

Counterfeit toys. Some of the most dangerous fakes are those intended for children. They may feature a child’s favorite character or resemble a toy advertised on TV, but counterfeit toys are often made of hazardous materials, include faulty parts that pose choking threats, or otherwise endanger kids’ safety. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently uncovered an operation to smuggle toys into the United States that violate the Consumer Product Safety Act. Parents should use their best judgment when shopping online for toys, sticking with trusted brands and websites.

Dubious software. If you’re looking for cutting-edge software, but at a bargain-basement price, it could cost you more in the long run. Counterfeit and pirated software can crash computers, wipe out data, and erase files. Worse still, it can compromise a person’s identity. Consumers should vigorously scrutinize their online software purchases.

Pirated entertainment. More of us are finding virtually all the entertainment we watch, hear, and play online—through an array of great providers accessed from nearly every device. Unfortunately, there are also illicit websites duping consumers with counterfeit and illegal content. Whether it is online or on the streets, consumers should heed the adage: buyer beware.

Designer fakes. Skilled counterfeiters routinely pass off knockoff luxury goods as the real deal, ripping off consumers and designers alike. Consumers should stick with reputable retailers and businesses. And if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Counterfeiting serves no one—except perhaps the criminal. It’s bad for consumers and the economy. So when it comes to avoiding fakes, common sense is the name of the game. The U.S. Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center has more tips for savvy shopping at www.dangerousfakes.com.

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