August has arrived and for those of us with children, this month represents an end to the summer and the start of a new school year. Soon kids will be swapping out their swimsuits and flip-flops for backpacks and tennis shoes. With back-to-school ads flooding our inboxes and pop-up ads on social media sites, it is no surprise that counterfeiters are utilizing these sites to lure consumers into buying fake products online. A survey by the National Retail Foundation expects over $75 billion to be spent on back-to-school items this year.
According to estimates, the number of worldwide social media users reached 1.96 billion and will grow to some 2.5 billion by 2018. Social-media sites are a growing market for counterfeiters because they usually have less registration requirements and listing fees than e-commerce platforms.
20% of Instagram posts related to fashion brands feature illegal and counterfeit items.
In recent years, sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, Pinterest and China’s WeChat are seeing an increased use of links and paid-for advertising space that lead to rogue websites. At a quick glance, the ads appear legitimate by using a brand’s photographs, logos and trademarks but will redirect to fake websites made to look like the real ones, potentially misleading the end-user to buy counterfeit products. A study of Facebook ads in October 2014 found that about a quarter of the 180 luxury or fashion ads reviewed were likely for counterfeit goods, because the ads linked not to the brands’ websites, but to those of entities in mainland China and Russia. And a report “Social Media and Luxury Goods Counterfeit: a growing concern for government, industry and consumers worldwide” found that about 20% of Instagram posts related to fashion brands feature illegal and counterfeit items.
With more than half of counterfeiters now using social media to sell their products, brands need to be diligent on building consumer awareness around the risks of social networks and include a social media monitoring solution to their brand protection strategy. One such solution is OpSec’s Online InSight platform, which provides continuous monitoring of social media sites to detect and enforce against rogue profiles, intellectual property infringement and the sales of counterfeit products.
Although these sites are meant to connect people together, it has become another means for connecting counterfeiters to a wider population. Just like ecommerce sites, the same principle applies to those links and ads on your social media account - if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Valerie Finn is OpSec's Director of Brand Protection. She has over 11 years experience in devising and executing brand protection strategies for global corporations to proactively minimize risk and maximize brand equity against Counterfeiting, Gray Market Diversion, Intellectual Property Infringement, and Online Brand Abuse. Her career has spanned multiple industries including Telecommunications, Corporate Compliance & Governance, and Intellectual Property & Trademark Management.