With the unrelenting growth of online shopping and the emergence of online retailers such as Aliexpress and EBay, it’s not too surprising that a lot of fake and sometimes even dangerous items are being produced, packaged and sold to unassuming customers in order for the seller to make a quick buck off the customer’s naiveté. This week the government warned customers against these types of sellers, especially those selling cosmetic and food products, which often contain harmful and unapproved substances that could cause damage to one’s health and wellbeing.
According to the investigation conducted by London City Police, dangerous substances such as arsenic, rat urine and cyanide were found in fake beauty products, including make-up, perfume and sun screen. In addition, the police found that many fake electronic items bought online did not pass many safety tests, and could cause electrocution. They estimate that over £90 million has been spent by customers over the last year, on these fake and damaging products, often in a misinformed bid to save money.
Many of the items, such as mascara, lip gloss and eyeliner, were found to cause severe irritations and allergic reactions, a result of the high levels of arsenic, lead and mercury found in the products as well as the unhygienic conditions in which the products are manufactured.
Since the investigation by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit of the City of London Police over 5,500 websites who sell these products have been suspended and the police have seized over £3.5 million worth of fake goods.
As part of their ‘Wake up, don’t fake up’ campaign, the Intellectual Property Crime Unit have provided guidelines to help customers tell the difference between real luxury brands and products that could cause irreparable damage to their skin that even the best make-up would be unable to hide. These guidelines include only using trusted retailers, never opening unsolicited emails and ensuring the website is legitimate by checking their URLs, postal addresses, grammar and methods of payment. If any of these look dubious, it’s best to avoid the site altogether.
“Beauty products are meant to enhance your features. However, the fakes can in fact do quite the opposite,” Deputy Superintendent Maria Woodall said.
“Our general rule is – if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.”