Officers from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) are warning Valentines shoppers to avoid counterfeit products and to not shop on fake online sites, after taking down 500 fake websites already, so far this year.
Laboratory tests have shown common Valentines gifts such as counterfeit perfume, often contain poisonous chemicals, including cyanide and even human urine.
Fake cosmetics such as eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss and foundation have been found to contain toxic levels of chemicals and harmful substances such as arsenic, mercury and lead. All of these can cause allergic reactions, such as skin irritation, swelling, rashes and burns, as well as leaving the consumer with longer-term health problems.
Counterfeit make-up is often produced in insanitary and unhygienic factories and there have been cases where rats’ droppings and poison have also been found in the phoney cosmetics.
With Valentine’s gifts being purchased online this year, officers are warning the public about the consequences of providing personal details to non-reputable sellers. Criminals often use people’s personal details to commit fraud, such as registering other counterfeit websites in their name and stealing personal and financial details.
Temporary Detective Inspector, Kevin Ives of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit said: “Valentine’s Day is a counterfeiter’s dream. With jewellery and perfume being popular gift choices, it’s easy to fall into the trap of a cheap offer.
“Fake makeup and perfume can contain harmful chemicals and even rat droppings that cause swelling, rashes and burns. Purchasing counterfeit goods online often results in your personal details being used to set up new fraudulent websites.
“Treat your Valentine to something legitimate from a reputable seller. Avoid heart break, don’t buy fake.” #Don’tFakeMyHeart
PIPCU also works closely with manufacturers, brand guardians, partner agencies and governmental departments to identify counterfeit websites.
Action is then taken to suspend the sites by working closely with Nominet, the UK’s central registry for all .uk domains, once it is established that the websites are in breach of the Copyright and Trademarks Act.