How to spot the fakes before you buy them as Christmas presents

Fakes Calvin Klein underpants seized by the UK Borderforce
Fakes Calvin Klein underpants seized by the UK Borderforce

As consumers in Sussex gear up for their Christmas shopping, the UK Border Force have already seized millions of pounds of fake goods.

Louis Vuitton purses, Gucci bags, Dr Dre Headphones and Ice Watches were just some of the fake items intercepted by the UK Border Force at Heathrow Airport, Southampton and Felixstow Port in the last few months.

As the credit crunch continues to bite, we’re all after a bargain aren’t we? But just be sure you don’t get lured into buying fake products for your nearest and dearest at Christmas, they might just be disappointed!

So how do you tell a fake from the real deal? The main message is: if the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

According to East Sussex Trading Standards the quality or standard of counterfeit goods varies from very professional to poor, substandard imitations. When buying goods you should look at the overall quality of the product you are buying and check the quality of printing on labels or boxes, looking out for spelling mistakes for example.

The environment you are buying the item from is key too - you won’t find genuine Louis Vuitton handbags on a market stall.

Check the website you are using is genuine and not made to look like a company’s official site.

To avoid being ripped off online, use the free Brand-i online shopping directory to search for well-known brands and find the genuine online stockists.

And of course fake goods are not made to the same standard as the genuine product.

They do not go through the same quality and safety tests and could be harmful to people who buy or receive them.

Problems could include alcoholic drinks such as fake vodka which might contain methanol, which can lead to blindness, electrical products not tested to safety standards could give you an electric shock or catch fire and health or beauty products which contain harmful chemicals that cause itching, rashes or even burns.

At Felixstowe Port more than £5m worth of fake goods such as Louis Vuitton purses, bags, trolley cases, Gucci purses and bags, Armani wallets and more than 7,500 pairs of counterfeit UGG boots (pictured) with a genuine retail value of £920,160 were found.

Staff discovered nearly 300 fake Dr Dre headphones and 5,000 Nokia phone chargers at Heathrow Airport, while in Southampton officers seized nearly one million pounds worth of fake Calvin Klein underwear (pictured) and 2,000 fake ICE Watches with a genuine retail value of £150,000.

Kevin Sayer, from Border Force at the Port of Felixstowe in Kent said: “We are uncovering all sorts of fake goods, from beauty products to children’s toys, and we’re warning people to be particularly wary of buying cheap items online or from unofficial traders. 

“It’s easy to be tricked into thinking you’re getting a bargain, but in the run-up to Christmas our message is that if something appears too good to be true it probably is.”

As well as attempting to evade duty and VAT, unscrupulous importers also put consumers at risk from potentially dangerous, unregulated products.

The Trading Standards Institute’s chief executive Ron Gainsford said: “Trading standards are working hard with other authorities to stop criminals ruining consumers’ festive spirit as millions of low-quality and potentially dangerous counterfeit products are flooding the country in time for Christmas, particularly in markets, car boot sales and online.

“The external appearance and packaging of electrical goods such as chargers and hair straighteners may be copied fairly well, but the internal composition and materials are likely to be substandard and could make the item very dangerous.

“Check, double check and check again to make sure what you are buying and where you are buying from is the real deal.”

Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling should call 0800 595 000. 

If you think that someone is selling counterfeit goods, report it by contacting: email: or phone: 08454 04 05 06.