UK campaign warns against fake goods for Christmas

Officials in the UK have ramped up efforts to push the anti-counterfeit message, warning consumers against purchasing fake goods in the lead up to Christmas this year.

The UK Intellectual Property Office is the latest body to warn consumers about knockoff goods as part of its ‘Buy Real’ campaign, in which the Office has created a series of short videos based on the 12 days of Christmas song.

Several media outlets have already published reports aimed at increasing public awareness of the risks associated with buying fakes, featuring quotes from local Trading Standards officers and advocacy groups, and calls to be particularly wary when shopping online.

The ’12 fake days of Christmas’ initiative, available on the IPO’s YouTube channel, sees a new video released every day for 12 days as a “light-hearted look at the serious issue of fake gifts and how they can ruin Christmas”, the IPO said in a blog post.

The videos, produced in association with Red Beetle Films, involve a couple and a child in festive jumpers next to a Christmas tree, while a man in a tuxedo plays an electric piano.

The first video, which is only 16 seconds long, plays: “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a rash from some knockoff jewellery.” The lyrics accompany the woman pulling up her sleeve to show a large red, raw rash on her arm, while the hashtag #buyreal flashes up on the screen.

The second video features fake perfume that “one sniff and you’ll cark it”, while the third fake day of Christmas warns against buying knockoff trainers. Dangerous mislabelled candles, counterfeit fake tanning lotion containing toxic chemicals, and risky whiskey also feature in the videos.

“Although the video has a comical side to it, there’s a serious underlying theme to the 12 clips,” the IPO said. “Fraudsters sell fake goods using the intellectual property (IP) of legitimate businesses, to make a profit. They don’t care about meeting safety standards and they certainly don’t care about ruining your Christmas.”

This is a message that is being echoed across the country ahead of Christmas, reflecting the general influx of fake goods that infiltrate the market during the buying bonanza at this time of year.

Neil Clark, Trading Standards manager in North East Lincolnshire, told the Grimsby Telegraph that even cheap shirts, mugs and slippers might seem harmless but they are “likely to be made from unsafe materials which may break apart easily, pose choking hazards for small children or cause skin irritation”. He also warned against cheap electrical devices and fake cosmetics.

This year’s must-have toy, Fingerlings (a robotic, interactive animal), is a particular concern as demand for the toy has been met with fakes popping up on online stores, and numerous parents have reported being duped. Norfolk Trading Standards wrote in a Facebook post warning consumers that demand is outstripping supply of the genuine toy, with fakes potentially having safety issues.

Meanwhile, the Action Fraud Group along with the City of London Police are urging shoppers to be wary of the products they buy with the #ThoughtThatCounts campaign, which encourages consumers to consider the source of the goods they are intending to buy.

Even banking giant Barclays is getting on board. It’s series of festive advertisements feature “SuperCon”, a robot toy that admits it’s a “scam” and says: “If you order me you’ll get nothing”. One ad highlights the security feature in the URL when shopping online, urging consumers to always check the seller is genuine. “You don’t want to get scammed by a fake site”, the robot says. It also warns against using public Wi-Fi to buy goods online, as well as opening links in advertising emails that may not be genuine.

According to research by Barclays, more than a quarter of internet scams occur during November and December.

Last year, nearly £16m was lost to Christmas shopping fraud, Action Fraud estimated, with Christmas fraud increasing by 25 per cent between 2015 and 2016. Sixty-five per cent of that was linked to online marketplaces.

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