SHOPPERS are being warned of the dangers of buying counterfeit goods as criminal gangs flood the British market with fakes for Christmas.
Counterfeit toys, computer consoles and games, handbags, shoes and beauty products are big business.
Criminals will go to astonishing lengths to get a slice of this year’s festive shopping market, with Britons expected to spend £6billion.
As families across the country struggle to pay for essentials like food and heating, a growing number are expected to look for bargains online or in street markets.
One in five online bargain hunters mistakenly bought fake goods while looking for the best deal last year.
Brand protection specialist MarkMonitor says it will be worse this year, with more than 8,000 sites identified as selling copies of designer brands including Gucci, Adidas and Mulberry bags, similar to the one pictured above but of poor quality.
Even before they are launched officially, counterfeiters are mass- producing fake PS4 and Xbox One games consoles in the Far East.
Gavin Terry, lead officer for the Trading Standards Institute, said: “There are significant risks to buying counterfeit goods, especially counterfeit electrical products or batteries which could cause fires or electric shocks. If you buy counterfeit goods for Christmas presents, what kind of message are you sending to your friends and relatives?”
He added: “Counterfeiters do not comply with the Sale of Goods Act or offer any form of guarantee.”
Gangs are also expected to cash in on the high price of tobacco by flooding the market with cheap cigarettes and rolling tobacco containing toxic metals.
Greater Manchester police recently seized 50 tons of fake goods, including Ugg boots, Tiffany jewellery, Dr Dre headphones, Lacoste shirts, Ice watches and Barbour jackets. The huge haul was worth more than £2million.
Detective Inspector Chris Mossop said: “If you buy a fake T-shirt or watch, you think you’re getting a bargain but you’re lining the pockets of criminal gangs who use your cash to fund their empires and buy guns and drugs.
“Criminals can sell counterfeit goods at rock bottom prices and so legitimate businesses end up out of pocket and possibly out of business.”