Christmas counterfeits flood the UK, from fake iPhones to cosmetics containing faeces, Home Office warns

Festive season is peak time for organised criminals to import dodgy goods

Wednesday 12 December 2018 02:34
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Knock-off electronics often don’t go through safety checks meaning they can pose a fire risk
Knock-off electronics often don’t go through safety checks meaning they can pose a fire risk

Fake iPhones, dangerous electrical appliances and make-up containing faeces and arsenic. These are some of the items that the Home Office is warning shoppers about as the UK prepares for an Xmas influx of counterfeit goods.

While none of the above are likely to make it to the top of anyone’s Christmas list they could find themselves in thousands of stockings, according to a warning from the UK Border Force.

Just like traditional retailers, organised criminals it seems, respond to the signals of supply and demand meaning the festive season is also peak time for dodgy imports.

Knock-off electronics often don’t go through safety checks meaning they can pose a fire risk, while cosmetics may be made in sweatshop conditions and have been found to contain an alarming array of ingredients including cyanide, paint-stripper and mercury.

Premier League football shirts and the latest children's toys are seized each year, the majority of which are bought online and shipped in from abroad.

Using counterfeit websites could compromise personal banking details, and Border Force warned that proceeds are linked to supporting sweatshops, child labour and even terrorism.

Border Force has issued advice on how to avoid counterfeit goods, which are shipped in every week in a bid to rip off brands and consumers.

  • Is the price right? If the price is too good to be true, then it probably is
  • Do the tags match? If you have a smartphone, use a scanner app to see if the barcode is real
  • Is it the total package? Is the spelling correct, does the logo look right, and is it up to the standard a top company would offer?
  • Does it pass the sniff test? If it doesn't smell right, it might be a fake. For example, counterfeit perfume often has a different scent, and fake footwear could have a strong smell of solvents due to cheap glue.

Once items are seized, Border Force's specialist international trade teams work with the owners of big brands to establish if goods are genuine.

If they are fake, the goods are destroyed and the rights holders can then decide whether to take out a private prosecution.

Consumers who believe they have purchased counterfeit goods are advised to contact Action Fraud, their local Trading Standards office or visit the Citizens Advice website.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said: "Counterfeit goods, especially electronics and beauty products, can risk the safety of consumers, and allow organised criminals to take money from honest retailers and public funds.

"Border Force are at ports, airports, and mailing rooms, working hard to keep these knock-off goods out of the country, depriving criminals of illicit profits and keeping consumers safe.

"I would also urge the public to take precautions so that these products don't end up under their Christmas tree."

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