Everybody loves a bargain. While it’s easy to compare prices, comparing product quality and safety requires consumers to be aware of fakes, and more importantly, the dangers they pose to health and safety. This lack of awareness helps to explain why a remarkable number of Americans—one-fourth of adults and one-third of teens—say they’ve knowingly purchased a fake product, including electronics, clothing, and cosmetics.
The problem isn’t just that counterfeits are cheap imitations of trusted brands. When people buy a counterfeit set of headphones, fake cosmetics, or imitation designer clothes, much of their money goes directly into the pockets of international organized criminals to fund nefarious enterprises like human trafficking, guns, and gang violence. Fakes also cost Americans jobs and hurt American businesses. Counterfeiting and piracy are projected to drain $4.2 trillion from the global economy and put 5.4 million legitimate jobs at risk by next year.*
Worse yet, consumers who purchase fakes risk death or serious injury from shoddy construction, such as faulty electronics which, according to the Anti-Counterfeiting Group’s 2019 report, cause over 70 deaths and 350,000 serious injuries every year.
Until recently, consumers were largely unaware of the substantial economic and physical harm caused by the purchase and use of counterfeit goods. To increase public awareness of the harms associated with fakes, the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the National Crime Prevention Council have launched their Go For Real Anti-Counterfeiting Campaign. The Campaign is an educational counteroffensive of public service announcements, press releases, research studies, web resources, and other forms of outreach to remind Americans that fake products cause real harm. The Campaign meets its target audience—teens, tweens, and their parents and teachers—where they are: online.
And here’s the good news: Go For Real is starting to change attitudes and behaviors. A recent Ipsos survey found an increase in the number of young Americans who are aware of the dangers of counterfeit products, and who say they will be more careful when shopping.
A remarkable one in six teens who were surveyed recalled seeing or hearing at least one of 16 Go For Real ads in the past six months. Counterfeit game controllers and cosmetics made a particularly large impression.
Moreover, one in four teens who recalled the Campaign talked to a friend or a family member about what they saw—the same percentage who said they learned something new about counterfeit goods. One in seven said the message they received will help them make more informed purchasing decisions.
The Go For Real Campaign has been especially effective in changing minds about fake cosmetics: 90% of teens who saw the campaign ads learned that these fakes could harm their health; most remembered that fake cosmetics can contain ingredients like rat urine and human feces. And in an increasingly socially conscious era, three-quarters now understand fake products may be made in factories with unsafe and unsanitary working conditions and using child labor.
Campaigns like Go For Real make a difference because they empower consumers with knowledge so they can help fight crime and protect themselves. If consumers think they have been scammed into buying a counterfeit, they should contact the manufacturer of the legitimate product, their credit card company, and law enforcement. The Go For Real landing page provides ample resources for consumers, community leaders, and law enforcement.
Real products are tested for safety. Protect yourself. Don’t fall for fake products. When you buy real, you support the brands that invest in research and development to make quality goods. You might just save your own life.