With Father's Day just a couple of days away and high school graduations quickly approaching, consumers are rushing to score the hottest technology gifts for dads and grads. Unfortunately, the latest trends in tech tend to fall victim to counterfeiters hoping to capitalize on the item's popularity. E-commerce sites like DHgate, EC21, Made-in-China and TradeKey often provide anonymous yet attractive venues for counterfeiters to sell these illicit goods in bulk at suspiciously low prices. OpSec conducted research across multiple trade boards to take a closer look at the tech items being counterfeited this season, and what consumers and brands can do to help protect themselves.
- We discovered over 2,200 listings for the popular fitness tracking device Fitbit, with an average listing price of about $40.00. Fitbit products retail for about $100, and the 60% discount represents a huge loss to the brand. Many of these listings offer as many as 100,000 units which, at the discounted (and no doubt counterfeit) rate, could mean a potential loss of over $4 million.
- OpSec found almost 70,000 suspect listings for Fitbit competitor Jawbone Up, retailing for as little as $20.00. Like Fitbit, legitimate products from this brand retail for around $100. Some of these listings offered as many as 12 million units of product at 80% less than what Jawbone sells them for on its site and via retailers. One seller offered “original USA brand Jawbone,” however, “due to the supply chain problems,” was not able to offer original packaging.
- Over 71,000 listings for a popular tablet offered an average of 30,000 units per month with most of the product images not showing the actual item. The tablet retails for around $300, yet most listings offered the tablet at a 30% discount, representing a potential loss of over $3.2 million to the brand.
Consumers looking for last-minute deals online should keep these tips in mind to help avoid purchasing a fake:
- Is the price too good to be true? Counterfeit tech gadgets may be sold for less – sometimes for a third or half of the retail price. An item sold at heavy discount is unlikely to be the real deal. Many online resellers utilize auction websites to dupe consumers eager to obtain a bargain on the latest models. The best approach is to purchase electronics in person or directly from the manufacturer or authorized reseller online.
- Does it look real? Knowing the colors, dimensions and exact features of the product can help eliminate the chances of purchasing a fake. If the item comes in a color that was not produced by the manufacturer, has different packaging than the item for sale at legitimate retail outlets, or has not yet been released, this is a good indicator of a counterfeit product. Visiting the manufacturer’s website to learn about the design features and technology specifications can help consumers discern a real from fake product.
- Is it a legitimate model? Some brands have an extensive list of models and in the case of wearable tech, it can be tempting to discard obvious discrepancies in the features. Counterfeiters may attempt to pass off a non-existing model number as an authentic product, leaving out or fabricating key stats around battery life. Check if the model is sold by the official manufacturer. If it does not exist on the manufacturer’s catalog or website, it is a clear sign that the product in question is suspicious.
- Is there a warranty? Most consumer electronics manufacturers provide a limited warranty which covers the product, accessories and software. Typically, the product is covered for one year from date of purchase by the first consumer purchaser of the product. Authorized dealers may also offer an extended warranty. When purchasing any technology, check that you are covered by warranty service.
Valerie Finn is OpSec's Director of Brand Protection and works with some of the world's most recognizable consumer electronic brands. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.