Faux Fashion Industry
When it comes to faking it, fashion is no stranger. Globally, there is a $450 billion market for counterfeit fashion, according to Business of Fashion.
Most people who buy fakes aren’t trying to contribute to a criminal economy, according to British Detective Sergeant Kevin Ives. Instead, they think they’ve found a “deal” on a genuine item. They often end up scammed out of their money with nothing to show, or an extremely low-quality fake.
But the market is also packed full of more subtle fakes. That’s part of why the UK founded the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), a force dedicated to hunting out counterfeit operations and shutting them down. Although the unit targets fakes in general and will raid physical locations, fashion items make up the biggest category for online stings. Shoes, clothing, and accessories (such as bags) are the items with the most false sites PIPCU puts offline.
PIPCU work has already lead to 19,000 fake websites getting shut down, and the unit may be the only one in the world. The concept, however, and the success, have led to talks of programs like PIPCU being implemented in other countries, aside from the U.K.
The internet, however, is a massive platform for counterfeiters, and many more appear where others were removed. Brand Ugg has responded by providing security measures like URL checkers, putting out pictures of real items and fakes, and having positions like brand protection managers. While some brands focus on prevention and education, others go after counterfeiters more aggressively. Some might hire a brand protection company that will look for fakes online. Companies might pursue legal action against purveyors of false goods or might simply focus on getting them taken off the web.
It takes a multi-tiered approach in many circumstances to stay effective because there are multiple levels for counterfeiters to work on. Alongside fake websites and pretend retailers, there are fake items sold on legitimate websites.
The anonymousness of the online world makes more opportunities for criminals, but this doesn’t mean the end of fighting fakes, as PIPCU proves. Strategic approaches to the problem have yielded fruit in the past, and the war against counterfeits will continue on the new ground.