Counterfeit Goods Online

The sale of counterfeit goods is prolific on social media sites and online marketplaces.
Each year, £4 billion is lost to the UK economy due to the sale of fake goods – money which could otherwise have been used to fund vital public services.
Designer goods or in-demand products advertised through online marketplaces at a price that seems too good to be true are often fake. Although they may look like the real thing, they may not meet UK or EU safety standards, could contain dangerous materials or chemicals and are often stored in unhygienic, filthy conditions

Counterfeit Goods Online

The illicit trade of counterfeit goods is increasingly moving online and being facilitated by social media and/or marketplace sites. Facebook in particular is becoming used as a source for counterfeit goods, age-restricted products and illicit cigarettes, as well as being used to enable scams through pop-up adverts. 

The economic impact of counterfeit goods is widespread, with around £4 billion being lost each year in tax revenue – money which could otherwise have been used to fund public services. Over the last year, Scottish consumers have lost at least £900,000 through e-crime (this is just cases which are reported). Legitimate brand holders have suffered almost £8 billion in lost revenue and illicit trading has led to the loss of around 60,000 jobs in the manufacturing, wholesale and retail sectors in the UK.

Apart from the financial impact, counterfeit goods can be unsafe and can cause damage to consumers’ health if they contain toxic chemicals and to their home if they have not been safety tested to UK and EU standards.

The busiest time for counterfeit sellers is the run-up to Christmas and Trading Standards Scotland works in partnership with local authorities and Police Scotland at this time to take action against traders in illicit goods. In December 2019, enforcement officers seized suspected counterfeit clothing, accessories and tobacco with a combined value of around £10,000. If these goods had been sold, the potential lost revenue to the legitimate brand holders would have been around £100,000. The fight against fakes is year-round however, with officers constantly working to seek out and stop traders of counterfeit goods.

Some of the counterfeited brands which Scottish Trading Standards officers have seized in the last year include Nike, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Gucci and Hugo Boss. These fake items are not only poor quality but are often unsafe to use. As well as potentially harming the consumer, they can do much wider damage as proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods frequently funds serious organised crime such as drugs, human trafficking, modern slavery and terrorism.

More Information

PDF Download:

Avoid a Glam Scam

What You Can Do

  • Be wary of designer goods or other products which are advertised through online marketplaces at a price that is significantly cheaper than in official stores.
  • Be cautious when you are buying from any online seller for the first time
  • If you pay for goods online using a bank transfer, you will not be protected if there is a problem with the sale. Always use a credit/debit card or a secure payment service such as PayPal.

If you have information about the sale of counterfeit goods through social media or marketplace sites, report them to Trading Standards via Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or online at

Check for fakes and illicit goods before you buy online

Vistalworks have developed a new online tool which allows you to check products before you buy them and reduce the likelihood of harm. This technology is still in its development phase, which means it is currently restricted to a range of products on sale on eBay and Amazon. Simply paste in an eBay or Amazon listing URL here and we’ll give you an indication of whether the product appears to be legitimate or not:

Loading the Vistalworks checker widget…

The technology gets more effective the more it is used so make sure that you test all of your potential purchases!

The information provided by the checker is for guidance only and is not legal advice. The checker is undergoing development and we are unable to guarantee that the correct recommendation will be made in every instance. Vistalworks does not accept any liability for any loss, damage or inconvenience arising as a consequence of any use of the checker.
Find out more about the work being carried out by Vistalworks on their website.