Scam Watch: Don’t Fall Prey to Counterfeit Goods

I am sure you are probably aware that many Chinese wholesale sources and websites will save you the most money when you are sourcing goods to resell - but only if you know what you are doing!

I often receive emails from distressed online sellers telling me that their goods have been seized by customs because they are deemed to be counterfeit and they are going to be destroyed or that they have had their listings removed by eBay under the VERO programme and they are now stuck with stock that they cannot sell on the site. This is so upsetting - both for the seller and for me too. I dread hearing about situations like this because it's so disheartening, but to be honest, each time I hear these stories, it always strikes me that it's the same problem. And it's a problem that can very easily be avoided simply by applying some common sense!

You should really sit up and take notice of what I'm going to tell you next because it's extremely important, and that is this:

If you source 'branded' or 'designer' products from Chinese wholesalers they are very unlikely to be the real deal.

That might sound harsh. It might sound like I am tarring every Chinese wholesaler with one dodgy brush, but seriously, do you honestly think that brand owners such as Apple, UGG, Louis Vuitton, GHD and Braun would allow the manufacturers of their products to offer these very same products to any Tom, Dick or Harry for a cheaper price? Of course not. So what you need to consider is this. You need to be aware that just because an item has a ‘Made in China’ label, this does not automatically mean it is counterfeit! Whilst a brand may manufacture their product in China - this does not mean that you are also being offered the genuine product when you search for a wholesale deal on that same product.

It's likely that you would be purchasing counterfeit goods - often unwittingly - and then you would sell those on as genuine items. This is against the law!

Just so you are aware of the types of products and prices I'm talking about, look at these examples:

GHD’s for $14.92 (£24.86 approx)

Teeth Whitening System for $1.94 (£1.16 approx)

Oral B Toothbrush Heads for $0.47 (28p approx)

Brands simply do not devalue their own products like this and in fact, in the case of Louis Vuitton there is no such thing as a 'wholesale price' because they do not offer their products to anyone except their own verified authorised distributors. Louis Vuitton are definitely not going to make some beautiful handbags to sell at Harrods and some lower standard ones for anyone else to get hold of to sell at the local car boot sale!

So, I hope you are now more aware of the fact that fake goods are everywhere!

Now, that's all well and good but how on earth do you ensure you are dealing with a genuine supplier of genuine goods? Well, the information I’m going to share with you now will help you weed out the scammers from the real deal.

Here are my top 6 considerations when you are looking at supplier sources:

1. Find out as much information about the supplier as possible

To ascertain the credibility of a supplier you must do as much research as is physically possible. It will save you a lot of possible future heartache! Look up the address of the company and actually telephone them to check that they exist and are who they say they are. For example, you could ask for the serial numbers that are listed on lots of brands because often the brands’ websites offer a tool that will allow you to enter the serial number on their site to see whether it matches the description of the product. Other brands have a freephone number you can call quoting the serial number to verify its authenticity. If the serial number is a forgery, or is linked to a product other than the one you intend to purchase, you know you are dealing with counterfeit items. If you are calling an international number, do make sure the number matches the country that they state they are located in - I know it's a simple thing but easily overlooked. This applies to UK companies as well, you must never be complacent. Check out all of their company policies which should be on their website if they have one – this includes information on payment terms, shipping, returns, damages and backorders.

You can also check out supplier reviews in B2B communities just like The Wholesale Forums.

2. Look really closely at the product advertisement

Look at this example below. Three things stand out. Firstly the hotmail address. Anyone can get one of this and it looks really unprofessional. Secondly, this supplier states they have a factory and can make ‘any clothing for you with your design” which should ring alarm bells. They are blatantly offering to make counterfeit branded goods for you! And thirdly, look at the price. At $68 (£40.80 approx) these are almost certainly fake UGG boots.
Other terms you should look out for that scream 'fake goods' within advertisements include:
• AAA quality
• Mirror image quality
• 99% authentic – how on earth can something be 99% authentic? Either it is real or it is not real!

3. Check the company background

Get references. Any professional, genuine company will have no problem in supplying references for you to contact. You have every right to ask your supplier for the telephone number of previous clients. I realise you might not want to be calling round people asking them lots of personal questions but it could save you from getting ripped off so it’s worth it in the long run.

4. Check out the company in person if possible

Obviously this may not be possible if you are sourcing internationally, but you can check local suppliers easily. Legitimate wholesale suppliers should not have a problem with you coming to view their warehouse or factory and this can in fact work to your advantage, as meeting the seller in person can often lead to negotiating preferential rates.

5. Get samples

A real bone-fide wholesaler will certainly not have a problem sending you a sample of their goods and should definitely not be offended by you wanting to check the quality or authenticity of their goods. Don’t expect samples for free though, you will have to pay, but usually you only pay the shipping costs. It's worth it for peace of mind.

6. Use your common sense

If something seems too good to be true then I know it’s an old cliché but it probably is too good to be true. Chloe handbags are simply not available at wholesale for £30 each! And you won’t get a carton of iPod Touch’s for £10 a unit either. Branded and designer goods are not available for you to purchase without going through an official distributor so it's best to avoid them altogether because as a reseller, the better option is to source unbranded goods.

Knowing how to tell a counterfeit item from an original is something that you need in your repertoire of skills as a seller but I am of course aware that becoming an expert on every brand in the world is a physical impossibility! Research is key and with some common sense and good resources, you can check out any branded product you are considering selling.

Have you ever had near-scam or counterfeit experiences? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below!

Amanda O'Brien is an eBay expert, skilled product sourcer and author of home study courses to help you sell successfully online. Sign up to her free w...

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