The Amazon Marketplace: The Good, The Bad, and The Counterfeit

Counterfeiting in a Modern World

Picture this: Your brand just created the perfect product, a mountable cupholder that you name “Cupable”. Cupable is the first of its kind, creating a new revolutionary way for people to hold their chilly beverages. Never again do you have to worry about leaving a condensation ring on your favorite tabletop, with Cupable, the possibilities are endless. You add your product to your Amazon store, hoping it will bring attention to your brand.

A month goes by and you notice that your product is doing extremely well, you’ve sold over 100 units and have 29 five-star reviews. One day you’re notified that you just got a two-star review on your product. For the first time, you’ve received a NEGATIVE review on your life-changing product. Instead of sulking over it, you decide to read the review. The review states, “DO NOT BUY. This product broke the second I placed my beverage in it”. Knowing that your product is stronger than steel, you decide to do some research. During your investigation, you come across a product with the same name as your product. Everything about the shopper page is the same as yours. The only difference is the name of the seller.

What you just encountered was a counterfeit version of your product. What we have seen in the past is that Amazon has been flooded with counterfeit products, masquerading itself as the real thing.

How to Tell if a Product is Counterfeit

Next time you go to purchase an item off Amazon, make sure you pay close attention to every detail on the product page.

Next, look closely at the name of the seller

This item was originally sold by ElevationLab, but because of content highjacking, this new company was able to become the seller. But the question that we're left with is if this product is the original product. It isn't.

Through a loophole in Amazon's seller marketplace, this new seller was able to take over ElevationLab's product listing. What they did was manufacture a counterfeit version of the original headphone mount and then uploaded it to the Amazon Marketplace using the same SKU number. They then priced the counterfeit at a slightly lower price, completely taking over the original product.

The question we are left with is "how am I going to be able to figure out when a product is counterfeit or not?". In 2018, Business Insider wrote an article detailing how to avoid counterfeit products on Amazon. In short, they listed seven ways to tell if a product is counterfeit or not.

1. Know who's selling the item

When shopping on Amazon, there are three different types of products you will find on the site:

  1. Ships from and sold by [Name of Third-Party Seller]: The product is sold by the third-party seller and shipped directly to you.
  2. Sold by [Name of Third-Party Seller] and Fulfilled by Amazon: A third-party seller ships the product to Amazon's warehouses, which then ships it to you without confirming the product is authentic beforehand.
  3. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com: Amazon sells the product, so it should be legitimate. While this method isn't completely immune to counterfeits, as they can get commingled into the general stock, it's still your best bet.

This will help you narrow your shopping search on e-commerce retailers to products sold by the site itself.

2. If it's not coming from the retailer, look up the seller

Find the seller via the website's product page, check out their product, then google them. A lack of online presence is worth noting.

3. Spot the fake reviews

Just because an item has five-star ratings doesn't mean it's authentic. On the contrary, a high number of positive reviews can be a red flag. Don't be fooled by a "verified purchased" tag on Amazon — while it helps establish credibility, sellers cheat the system by hiring businesses to create dummy accounts, purchase products, and write a stellar review.

You can use online tools, like Fakespot to help you determine the legitimacy of a review.

4. Look into shipping logistics

Another red flag comes in the form of long shipping times. On Amazon, third-party sellers don't see their sales revenue for fourteen days. A new vendor with fake merchandise has to maintain their account for at least two weeks to obtain their profit. This means that shipping times will usually exceed that two-week period to prevent consumer complaints on their product.

Also, make sure to look at where the item is being shipped from. At the moment, a large majority of the counterfeit products are coming out of countries like China and India.

5. Examine product photos

In the age of Photoshop and technology, it's easy for a scammer to edit or steal a photo to make their product look authentic.

Stuart Fuller, director of commercial operation and communications at global brand protection firm NetNames, recommends downloading an image and using Google's reverse image search to see if the photos were taken from another site.

6. Watch out for unrealistic deals

In an interview with NewBeauty, Kelly McCarthy, partner at intellectual property and brand protection group Sideman & Bancroft, advised avoiding the temptation to purchase beauty products from convenient online locations — instead, buy them directly from the brand or department store.

"If you see a 'deal' on beauty products and the sale is not happening in a store that you know is an authorized seller, you are definitely raising your risk that the product is fake," she said. "If the pricing looks too good to be true, it probably is."

7. Inspect the product for suspect packaging

goVerify on eBay has a few guidelines on what to look for when determining the authenticity of a designer item, as do YouTube videos comparing dupes with their legitimate counterparts.

There are a few general tricks you can look for — tags, typos, misspellings, and poor printing should all be on your radar. Packaging should include all the retail packaging for new products, such as manuals or printed materials, and UPC barcodes.

If something looks off, return it and contact customer service to seek a refund.

Using Copybox for counterfeit monitoring

Copybox is a content hijack monitoring tool that alerts you when content changes are made. With Copybox, you can track content changes, set content guidelines, as well as monitor unwanted or malicious changes. Start monitoring your content with Copybox today.

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