Fake designer goods are everywhere: here’s how to avoid being mugged off

Faking it till you make it? It’s time for a new plan

Ever wondered how on earth you managed to get so lucky and find a bargain Louis Vuitton handbag or affordable Gucci sunglasses on eBay? Well I’m sorry to break it to you, but it was probably a fake. That’s the unfortunate first rule of spotting fake designer goods: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

If you’re now frantically re-thinking every purchase you’ve ever made, don’t despair. There are campaigns out there fighting the sale of counterfeit goods on a large scale, such as The Real Deal Campaign for Fake-Free Markets and The Anti-Counterfeit Group (ACG), but by learning how to spot and avoid fake items, you can protect yourself.

Knowing how to spot a fake and educating others on the subject can be your first step in fighting this exploitative industry

With lockdown in full swing, many students are turning to online shopping to pass their time, and so it’s the perfect time to learn how to spot a fake in order to prevent yourself from being mugged off. The first step is to consider the ‘four P’s’: place, product, packaging and price.


Most designer brands stock their goods in a very select few cities and department stores (the same with online retailers). So, if you find a reasonably priced Chanel purse at a street market or on eBay, it’s most likely fake.


Designer brands can charge so much money because their quality is so high. If a low quality sweatshirt is printed with a designer logo, don’t try and convince yourself it’s real.


Videos of people unboxing expensive bags are all the rage on Tik-Tok at the moment, and if you watch one you’ll see how much packaging goes into a tiny purse. So, if you see the same purse wrapped up in a bit of cellophane wrapper, check yourself. 


This one is the biggest give away. A pair of Balenciaga trainers average at around £650, and so if you find a pair on eBay for £65, just close the tab and walk away. 

Two other top tips are to check the quality of stitching and to look out for discreet (or sometimes not so discreet) ‘Made in China’ labels. Poor stitching and labels such as these unfortunately point to your dreamy new purchase being fake.

Could you guess which one of these watches is fake?

Turns out, they both are!

If you came across the watch on the left online, you can’t examine it like you could in person, so how can you tell? Even worse, online retailers often use photos of the genuine luxury product to make it even harder. However, the same rules apply. If a website looks dodgy, has negative reviews or the price seems dramatically low, it’s best not to risk making the purchase.

You might be reading this and thinking who cares? Students are strapped for cash all year round so what’s the harm in buying a knock-off? But, have you considered the physical harms associated with counterfeit goods? The ACG states that around 40% of fake goods seized at European Borders have proved to be hazardous to the consumer. 

The dangers of the counterfeit cosmetic industry

The need to keep up with Kylie Jenner’s perfect pout or Gigi Hadid’s envious lashes is felt all over the world, fuelling the counterfeit cosmetic industry. Fake cosmetic manufacturers don’t work out in the open and so unsurprisingly choose not to follow health guidelines: using quality products and safety testing costs money. Their products are instead filled with carcinogens, outdated ingredients and even toxic chemicals such as mercury. Not only can these wreak havoc on your skin, but the potential side effects of ingesting these toxic chemicals can be life changing.

If you came across this imitation benefit mascara, would you believe it’s genuine?

Counterfeit cosmetics can be extremely deceptive. Common giveaways like the quality of material and stitching don’t come into play here, making it more difficult for the consumer to work out which products are genuine and which are fake. If you’re not sure, then compare the product with a photo of the real thing. This can single out spelling mistakes or differences in the packaging which you may not initially see.

According to the ACG, the counterfeit goods trade is a £9.3 billion industry in the UK, and the purchase of these products feeds the exploitation of consumers, workers and businesses. Knowing how to spot a fake, understanding the harms that they can cause people and educating others on the subject can be your first step in fighting this exploitative industry.

Happy shopping! 

For more information you can check out the following websites:

(Photos courtesy of The Anti Counterfeiting Group)