Steer Clear of Counterfeit Items During Holiday Shopping

Counterfeit items at Covered Bridge FestivalEvery year, thousands of visitors flock to rural Indiana to enjoy food and shopping options from vendors from around the country at the Covered Bridge Festival in Parke County.

This year, 24 people were arrested for selling counterfeit items at the Festival.

From headphones and toys to purses and clothing, consumers often believe that they are purchasing actual brand name items at a great price, or they realize that the items are counterfeit and they believe that the sale of those items is a victimless crime.

Thousands of items were seized when the vendors were arrested at this year’s Covered Bridge Festival after extensive investigation and undercover work by Indiana State Excise Police. The counterfeit items included jackets, purses, and hats with the logos of various brand names. Some consumers call such items “knock-offs,” but retail organizations differentiate between knock-offs and counterfeit items.

  • Knockoffs imitate the overall look of designer originals, but don’t use the words or symbols of a designer brand label to deceive consumers.

  • Counterfeits pretend to be the real brand name item. They bear a designer brand’s label, logo, or signature symbol.

But, isn’t it just large corporations who are affected by the sale of these counterfeit goods? Not really. For starters, according to The Association of Resale Professionals, these items do not have to meet the same safety standards as their legitimate counterparts.

  • Counterfeit auto parts have caused deaths.
  • Counterfeit beauty products have caused skin problems and hair loss.
  • Counterfeit children’s clothing is usually not flame retardant, and the toys often contain lead or small, breakable parts that pose a choking hazard to children.
  • Counterfeit sunglasses are generally not shatterproof and usually lack ultraviolet protection.
  • Buying counterfeit items on-line puts you at risk for identity theft and credit card fraud.

Many consumers may also be surprised to know that counterfeit goods are usually produced in sweatshops run by organized crime groups or even terrorist organizations.

In an effort to stop production and sale of these items in the U.S., state and national laws have been put in place to prevent the spread of counterfeit goods.

In Illinois, “counterfeit item” means any goods or services made, produced, or knowingly sold or distributed that use or display a counterfeit mark. Any person who knowingly uses these trademarked names or seals is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

A first conviction for selling counterfeit goods will lead to a significant fine, but people with prior convictions or those who are convicted more than once for selling counterfeit items will face felony charges.

When you visit your next festival or flea market, consider supporting local crafters and artists, and avoid buying any item with a brand name logo on it unless you have assurance that it is not a counterfeit item. 

Photo courtesy of Fox 59 and Indiana Excise Police