M2 Watchdog: Faking It - the Curse of the Counterfeiters; Internet Sites an Ideal Home for the fakers.(Features)
Byline: CATHERINE HENDRICK
PARENTS in the West Midlands are unwittingly funding drug traffickers, pornographers and even terrorists in a bid to help their kids keep up with the latest trends.
Because hardened criminals are faking the most popular toys, games and designer clothing as part of their evil trade.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service con-firms there are links between organised crime and counterfeiting in the Midlands.
Sixty per cent of criminals behind counterfeiting and piracy are also involved in drug trafficking it warns.
And a quarter of those involved in immigration crime are also involved in counterfeiting.
That doesn't just mean producing fake documents, many illegal immigrants are also used as sweatshop labour producing other counterfeit goods.
In 80per cent of raids in the Midlands carried out by the European Leisure Software Publishers Association, evidence was found that the crooks were also involved in other crimes ranging from benefit fraud to pornography.
Some shoppers may not be aware they are buying the counterfeit goods.
But more than 50 per cent of people admit they would knowingly choose a cutprice counterfeit instead of forking out moremoney for the genuine article if they got the chance.
John Anderson, Director General of the AntiCounterfeiting Group, says: 'We have to shake people from their misplaced perception that the people involved in counterfeiting and piracy are Criminals are also using the internet as an anonymous smokescreen to trade in fakes and pirate products.
Mr Anderson explains: 'The nature of the internet and the fact that there is no global policing system make it incredibly difficult to keep track of fake sites, they are literally here today and gone tomorrow, dodging enforcement agencies and company investigators'.
Every industry is affected but computer games, videos and luxury goods, in particular watches, are popular fakes traded on the internet.
Worryingly, there also appears to be a growing internet trade in pharmaceuticals and so-called lifestyle drugs such as vitamins and body building products.
They are often made from, or cut with, other cheaper substances and are sent out without any dosage instructions or health warnings.
The ACG believes that shoppers who buy on line don't always realise that products offered at apparently bargain prices are fakes. Mr Anderson says: 'What consumers need to know is that when they go online to buy fakes they may simply be ripped off or they may be just a few clicks away from other sites peddling distasteful, offensive or highly illegal and disturbing material. …