Trick or treat: PIPCU warns of fake fancy dress dangers ahead of Halloween


The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is urging people to buy their Halloween fancy dress outfits from legitimate sellers.

Counterfeit costumes pose risks of suffocation, poisoning from untested dyes and strangulation from unsuitable fastenings.

The outfits are not tested or subjected to the same rigorous testing as genuine items and therefore pose a public safety risk to consumers. The packaging of the clothing also does not meet safety standards.

PIPCU is also warning the public that there are many risks when buying counterfeit Halloween costumes on marketplaces, websites and social media.

When buying items online, people will part with personal details including banking details, which allow fraudsters to set up new websites selling counterfeit products in the victim’s name.

Don’t get cursed this Halloween

PIPCU is issuing the following consumer advice and tips for safe online shopping this Halloween:

  • Trust your instincts – if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Legitimate items are rarely discounted, so do not rush and be fooled into believing you are getting a good deal.
  • Check the spelling and grammar on the website and of the URL as often the people behind these sites will try to deceive you by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address.
  • Look to see where the trader is based and whether they provide a postal address – just because the web address has ‘uk’ do not assume the seller is based in the UK. If there is no address supplied or there is just a PO Box or email, be wary.

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  • Only deal with reputable sellers and only use sites you know, or ones that have been recommended to you. If you have not bought from the seller before, do your research and check online reviews. People will often turn to forums and blogs to warn others of fake sites.
  • Ensure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment.
  • Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date.
  • Ask the trader if there is a returns policy or guarantee. Most rogue traders will not offer this.
  • Watch out for pop-ups appearing asking you to confirm your card details before you are on the payment stage. Never enter your PIN online.
  • Report to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040. If you live in Scotland, please report directly to Police Scotland by calling 101.

Temporary Detective Inspector Kev Ives, of the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, said: “Enjoying Halloween safely should be a guarantee, not a treat. Purchasing costumes from a reputable seller will ensure you are not tricked into buying unsafe products.

“The dangers of buying fake fancy dress costumes cannot be underestimated, with potentially devastating consequences for public safety. With the popularity of fancy dress costumes at this time of year it’s vital that consumers are extra careful and check where they are buying them from.

“Counterfeit costumes are untested, meaning they put people at risk of suffocation and strangulation. Make sure your Halloween is scary for the right reasons.”

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