Counterfeit goods and phony pharmaceuticals continue to pose a health and safety risk to consumers in America and around the world. During these uncertain and unprecedented times, as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must remain especially vigilant. Many fraudulent healthcare products, including hand sanitizers and supposed panaceas for the novel Coronavirus, are being offered by unscrupulous sellers, often via the internet. We must take the necessary steps to protect against fraud.
As a federal agent, I was stationed in Beijing, China, during the original SARS outbreak in 2003. Those were scary times, in which I had to send my family back to the U.S. as a safety precaution. A coordinated government response, enhanced hygiene, and personal responsibility were key to combating SARS in China then. Today, we face similar challenges with COVID-19.
With the majority of counterfeit goods being manufactured, packaged and exported from China and other Southeast Asian countries, we all need to be more aware of the products we purchase and their intended uses. In 2005, U.S. and Chinese law enforcement conducted the 1st joint IPR investigation into counterfeit pharmaceuticals in China, resulting in the largest seizure of bogus pharmaceuticals at the time. Since then, China’s lackluster response to enforcing and combating counterfeit goods remains a significant challenge to governments and consumers worldwide.
As the best scientists and doctors in the world search for solutions for treating COVID-19 and slowing its spread, we as consumers also must keep our guard up. There is a lot of information available on the internet about this virus, but we must do our due diligence and verify the information against multiple and verified sources before it can be believed and shared.
One thing is certain: the pandemic has not slowed the production and sale of counterfeit consumer goods and pharmaceuticals, particularly those aimed at treating COVID-19 and other viruses. Bogus products are proliferating, ranging from ultraviolet (UV-C) lights for sanitizing goods, to liquid hand sanitizers and masks, to a plethora of drugs that are claimed to have an impact against COVID-19. At best, these products may help or at least not hurt. But many fraudulent products can actually cause harm.
Consumers need to understand that counterfeit goods have not abated with any of the global lockdowns or restrictions due to the spread of the virus. Federal authorities continue to seize counterfeit goods and investigate companies and individuals engaged in their importation to the U.S.
So, until there is a better and more coordinated response from countries known for the manufacture, distribution, and sale counterfeit goods, it’s important to remind ourselves of the old saying Caveat emptor, or Buyer Beware! If an item that normally costs $100 can be purchased for $10, it’s probably not a good investment. As the adage suggests, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
From all of us at Summit Brand Protection, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay vigilant. Together we can get through this pandemic and help and put a dent in the sale of counterfeit goods.