Seven dangerous counterfeits you should never buy

Red Points has come up with seven fake product groups that could be particularly hazardous if bought by consumers.

The list zeroes in on goods that pose a health and safety risk to buyers who prioritise cost savings over buying from a reputable seller, says the brand protection company.

First on the list is fake sex toys, which Red points says can be dangerous enough to kill users as they may be made of toxic or non-sterile materials, or use shoddy electrical components that may malfunction during use.

This category has seen explosive sales growth of late, attracting fraudsters, but because some people may be embarrassed to discuss them, purchasers may be too nervous to seek medical help if things go wrong.

Next up is cosmetics, which because they can be very expensive present an opportunity for counterfeiters to entice purchasers – knowingly or unknowingly – with cut-price copies.

Once again, the danger lies in the use of substandard, potentially toxic ingredients, says Red Points, citing recent cases in which fake perfumes were found to contain antifreeze, urine and methanol, and make-up with aluminium, arsenic and mercury.

Third on the list is car parts, in particular products like airbags, brake pads and hydraulic hoses often installed without the knowledge of the car owner, that can increase the risk of sudden mechanical failure and potentially a collision.

Moreover, fake airbags not only compromise a car user’s chance of survival in the event of a crash, but in some cases can even increase the chance of injury.

Particularly topical at the moment is the fourth entry in the list – counterfeit medicines – as the headlines track the course of the coronavirus pandemic and the criminals that are exploiting the crisis by offering fraudulent products that claim to diagnose, prevent or treat COVID-19.

Fake drugs can cause direct harm to users through the use of toxic substances, but also prevent patients get the treatment they need for their illness. The World Health Organization estimates that a third of all falsified medicines have no active ingredient.

Category number five is fake electronics, whose main risk to health lies in the risk of electric shock or fire from poorly constructed products and in particular shoddy batteries that can overheat and combust in seconds.

Most cases of electronics counterfeiting affect consumers who intended to buy a genuine item, according to Red Points research, with a survey by the company finding one in five people report buying fake electronic items in the past.

At number six on the list are fake baby products, which Red Points notes can have devastating repercussions for families, causing injury to the most vulnerable in society.

Toxic phthalates or other undisclosed chemicals in plastic toys or sippy cups, unsafe protective equipment like strollers and car seats, and toys with hazardous components that could be dislodged and cause choking are just some of the dangerous incidents that have been documented in recent incidents.

Finally, Red Points warns consumers to take considerable care when purchasing climbing equipment, noting that climbers were placed on “high alert” after sellers from Asia were found to be producing fake products under the name of respected brands like Petzl's.

“Most people like to save money, but if scaling mountains is your passion and gravity is not your friend, then cheap fake alternatives are not worth the $50 in savings,” it says.

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