Recently, the London Fire Brigade issued a warning about fake iPhone chargers after firefighters rushed out at midnight when a woman’s recent purchase at a local street vender exploded in her hand, sent her to the hospital and nearly set her home on fire.
Every week there is a new story, unfortunately, of counterfeit products causing harm to a “value shopper” who went a step too far without adhering to the age-old-adage, let the buyer beware. A good deal is one thing; a knock-off power cord catching fire or fake medicine that could put you in the hospital is another altogether. Especially when purchasing online from unknown sources, it is not shocking that other dangers lurk behind every supposed bargain. Enterprising criminals can sneak malware onto an unsuspecting internet shopper’s home computer, or steal credit card information and other pieces of personal identity.
These are all examples of the problems behind intellectual property theft.
Legitimate businesses are doing everything they can to provide the newest technology, fun entertainment options, and life-saving new cures with the greatest shopping ease possible. They also take great measures to develop trusted brands so that consumers know they will receive a quality product. When something goes wrong, these credible companies will do what it takes to protect their customers and their reputation. The same cannot be said for the individuals and groups who spend their energy stealing brand names, great ideas and innovative products in order to make a quick buck.
These efforts are also often run by sophisticated criminal organizations, masking behind fancy webpages and product packaging that is designed to fool shoppers into believing their products are genuine. And, they use the proceeds from these sales to fuel other enterprises like human trafficking and illicit drugs.
While U.S. federal and local officials are working hard to address these problems, law enforcement continually struggles to identify and shut down these operations. Traditional steps to seize counterfeit goods at the ports as they are shipped, or take down vendors at the street corner and in flea-markets have been made even more challenging with the expansion of illegal sales online. Tracking illicit websites is tricky and can lead to sources that are hiding behind boarders in countries who do not adhere to international treaties and law enforcement standards.
During October, National Crime Prevention Month, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) and US Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) have partnered to raise awareness of these issues, and to “Get Real About Intellectual Property Theft”. On the NCPC partner resource page, local organizations and individuals can find the Top 10 Tips to Protect Yourself Against Dangerous Fakes and other information to help provide educational tools for consumers.
Ultimately, the best way to take a “bite out of crime” is for consumers to take steps to protect themselves. By making good choices, an educated consumer can guard against these potential threats and prevent their money from unintentionally adding to bigger criminal problems.