On what is considered by many the most romantic day of the year, spending on loved ones is once again seeing its annual peak. Unfortunately, much of the revenue may end up in the wrong hands, as counterfeiters are expecting to profit from fake Valentine's goods.
Gone are the days when Valentine's Day was limited to a small religious celebration with no connection to romance. Today, February 14th is one of the most commercialized dates around the world, with businesses actively encouraging people to spend their savings on others. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans alone are expected to spend over $18 billion this year, with 190 million Valentine's Day cards exchanged in the country.
Valentine's day is an expensive affair
Valentine's gifts have a wide range and can go from the more traditional chocolates and red roses to the more daring, like perfumes and lingerie. This year candy will appear to come out on top as the majority of polls suggest spending at its highest here. Nonetheless, it is expected that over $4 billion will be spent on jewellery alone, as well as $2 billion on flowers.
Unfortunately, this date catches not only the attention of thoughtful lovers and friends, but also that of counterfeiters, who seek to take advantage of misguided buyers through fake products. According to Jason Molina, an assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations' New York field office, Valentine’s Day an uptick in counterfeit products like colognes and perfumes, which are some of the most popular items gifted on this date.
Counterfeiting as a criminal industry
In addition to the monetary damage this causes to companies (fake goods are estimated to add to the global economy over $600 billion a year), money from counterfeiting often supports crime rings and, as Molina explains, "billions of dollars that are made from these items" can even go to "fund terrorist organizations".
As if that was not enough, counterfeits are known to follow little-to-no regulatory standards and are often made with poor quality and even toxic materials. In other words, by buying these products consumers are submitting to a completely unknown level of risk, and a potentially fatal level of harm.
For Valentine's gifts, many of the most popular come with the highest risk. For example, people who are looking forward to gifting a bottle of wine may be unaware of the rise of fake alcoholic drinks, often made with cheaper alcohol, home-made brews or watered down products. Fake alcohol is a particular problem in Europe and specifically for online purchases, where the image of the product is all the buyer has to judge authenticity.
Another industry in the midst of a counterfeiting storm is the sex toy industry. A popular gift for Valentine’s Day, producers are warning consumers to exercise caution purchasing sex products online. The danger is not only to branded products whose reputation is at risk but also to consumers, as counterfeit adult toys can result in more than just embarrassment. Many fakes are produced with substituted materials, including potentially harmful levels of chemicals.
Regardless of the product they’re seeking to buy, nowadays consumers are exposed to the traps of counterfeiters who take advantage of the fidelity towards brands to sell dangerous products. People lured into buying knock-offs are most vulnerable to serious safety and health risks. Brands too invariably pay a high price, as their reputation is in the hands of an unregulated, lower-quality product.