Every year, a staggering $250 billion is lost in the economy due to counterfeit goods being produced and sold in the globally, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Many of those fake goods are touted online, which is all the more reason both retailers and consumers should be on the lookout for counterfeit goods during the holiday shopping season, says Neil Alpert, chief executive officer of Laserlock Technologies.
“The Internet—while we all love it—is also the best friend of the counterfeiter,” says Alpert, who explains that online shopping puts a distance between the consumer and the item, leaving the buyer unable to evaluate its authenticity. “If you think about it, you go online, you buy an item, you never see the person who’s selling it to you, you don’t know where they’re located; you don’t actually get to see the physical item until it arrives at your house.”
Alpert says that counterfeiters are masters at quickly setting up Web sites to sell their items, and can take them down in a matter of seconds. “The other thing about online shopping is that by the time that product is shipped to you, the person on the other side of that Web site could be gone. That Web site is closed down today, a new Web site is open tomorrow,” he says.
Fortunately for consumers, the U.S. government is cracking down on such sites as they’re discovered. Alpert says that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has shut down a number of Websites selling fake goods. “Seven hundred websites selling fake counterfeit goods have been shut down in the last three weeks alone, and those are the ones they can find when they shut one down a new one comes up,” he says.
While there are federal efforts to squelch online retailers selling counterfeit products, Alpert says both businesses and consumers should take a proactive approach to safeguarding what they buy and sell. “There are technologies and ways out there today that could cut down that number significantly. I would be lying if I said it could be cut down to zero, but it could be cut significantly,” he says.
LaserLock Technologies provides one such solution called BrandGuard, a tracking system achieved through the printing of numbers on items and packaging. “The way BrandGuard does that is through something called item level serialization, where every item that a legitimate brand produces, let’s say Louis Vuitton or Pfizer as examples, every package of medicine that Pfizer produces will have a unique serial number associated with it, and throughout the demand chain and right to the end user that item is able to be authenticated,” says Paul Donfried, chief technology officer at LaserLock Technologies.