Halloween season is upon us and consumers have started their online search for all kinds of spooky goods – from fake blood and fangs, to coloured contact lenses to enhance the look of their chosen scary character. Fortunately, the vast majority of consumers today are aware of the issue of counterfeiting. In fact, 90 percent of respondents to a PwC survey on counterfeiting said they feel that the practice is morally wrong, yet counterfeit sales still represent seven percent of all global trade.

However, with more consumers buying online than ever before, regardless of the season, it has never been more important for shoppers to be on their guard and keep in mind the dangers of purchasing counterfeit goods.

In just one example, this time last year, US officials from a number of bodies, including the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Washington, warned the public about the dangers associated with counterfeit decorative and coloured contact lenses that become very popular around Halloween. Operation Double Vision was launched to put a stop to consumers buying novelty Halloween contact lenses online and without a prescription due to the ‘inherent medical risks’. The FDA Office of Criminal Investigation warned that the buying the decorative counterfeit contact lenses could lead to a range of eye injuries, including blindness.

Consumers celebrating Halloween do not want to be tricked online, and regardless of how internet or business savvy shoppers are, there five key aspects that should be considered when making an internet purchase:

Price: Counterfeiters are wising up and realising that sometimes it can be more convincing the less the item is reduced. Search around for the recommended retail price (RRP) and even if the item only has a small discount, such as 20%, it is worth checking other elements of the website to see if they stack up.

The site itself: Although some websites look professional at first glance, counterfeiters aren’t always so careful about the ‘About’ or ‘FAQ’ page. Check these sections and make sure you look at the delivery details and note where the company is based, does it match up with the company’s details? Look at the delivery options, less reputable sites usually won’t bother with this, and also search for the registered postal address, genuine sites will have an address listed.

Secure payment: Any time you are asked for login details, or encouraged to enter your credit card details, the page should be protected by a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection. A padlock icon will appear in the address bar when the SSL connection is active. Also, in some browsers the address may begin with https://, which also indicates a secure site.

Return and Privacy Policies: These should be clear if it’s a reputable site. A bona fide seller should provide an option of how to cancel orders and where to return goods. Counterfeiters won’t usually invest the time to craft a clear, strong privacy policy, so if there isn’t one on the website, be warned.

Check the web address: Impersonation of a brand’s website and what is referred to as ‘cybersquatting’ are on the rise. When doing an initial search for the brand name, check the link and look out for spelling mistakes on both the website and the URL address. If the address begins with https://, the ‘s’ tells you it’s a secure site. Some of the big brands have dedicated pages on their websites so consumers can check whether a seller is authorised.

Online marketplaces: Even if the marketplace itself is a brand you know, check reviews of the seller or try find any forum chats and speak to other retailers before placing that order.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse


Simon Whitehouse is Senior Director, EMEA Sales, MarkMonitor.