How To Spot Counterfeit Sellers and Unsafe Products On Amazon

It’s easy for counterfeiters to swoop in on a company’s legitimate Amazon product listing and take over the “Buy” button.

The rise of counterfeit goods and other phony products sold on the Internet has been swift and it has largely gone unnoticed by many shoppers. But make no mistake: the problem is extensive. Most people don’t realize this, but the majority of listings on Amazon aren’t actually for items sold by Amazon, they’re run by third-party sellers. And even though many third-party sellers are upstanding merchants, an awful lot of them are peddling fakes.

Why Does This Matter?

Besides those who want to support American business, foreign counterfeit products are often made cheaply and without any regards for safety. Especially for products being used by babies or children, most of their products would fail a Child Safety Test. This means their products most likely contain materials that are prohibited in the U.S. If the product has metal parts, then be aware it may contain heavy metals like lead, nickel, or cadmium. If the product has plastic parts, then it could contain phthalates. Amazon requires testing reports on items sold to infants and kids, but counterfeit sellers find ways to get around this. They are known to pay off testing labs in China, submit counterfeit testing reports, and find loopholes in system like listing a baby feeding product in an unrelated category that has less restrictions. Unfortunately these counterfeit sellers do not care about getting caught because in China legally they cannot be prosecuted. Since this is the case, majority of those that do get caught, recreate new accounts.

What is Phthalates?

Phthalates (pronounced "thah-lates") are chemical plasticizers that have been widely used since the 1950s to soften plastics that would otherwise be brittle and crack when bent. Unfortunately, these chemicals don’t stay inside the products which is why we often see plastic products over time become hard or cracked. Plasticizers are all around us, and adults and children have many opportunities to absorb them. "Children are uniquely vulnerable to phthalate exposures given their hand-to-mouth behaviors, floor play, and developing nervous and reproductive systems," says Sheela Sathyanarayana, an acting assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington and lead author of a study that looked at phthalate exposure via baby care products.

Why are Phthalates Harmful To Children?

Phthalates are called “endocrine disruptors” because they affect the body’s hormones by mimicking them or blocking them. They interfere with the body’s natural levels of estrogen, testosterone, and other hormones, which is why they are called “disruptors.” Hormones can increase the risk of some cancers, whether those hormones are natural or synthetic. Too much or too little of a hormone can be harmful. Is a child who is exposed to phthalates more likely to develop cancer as an adult? No one knows for sure but animals exposed to phthalates are more likely to develop liver cancer, kidney cancer, and male reproductive organ damage.

Here are some tips to help detect which Amazon products are from counterfeit sellers:

1. Look at the Brand Name

If it sounds weird and doesn't make sense, it's probably counterfeit.

2. Look at the Seller Name

Especially for popular items from well known brands.

3. Read the Reviews

Read what others are saying about the products. If multiple users claim that they had received the wrong item, that is a red flag.

4. Read the Seller Feedback Reviews

These are different from the product reviews that appear on Amazon listings. This is found by clicking on the "Sold by Company" on the amazon listing.

5. Looking at the Photo Reviews

If the product does not match, then they are using an old listing that has reviews to sell their new offer.

6. Look at Shipping Times

If it's more than 10 days, then it is coming from China or a different foreign country.

7. Look at Grammar in the product descriptions or bullet points.

8. Look at the Price

Products for super low prices are alarming as it could potentially mean it is coming directly from China.

9. Look at the Product or Packaging in the Photos for Misspellings

10. Look at the Photos on the Listings.

Counterfeit sellers tend to use horribly photoshopped lifestyle images.

There are a lot of truths that shoppers don’t know about Amazon. They claim that their company take steps to spot counterfeit or unsafe products, but the reality is they really don’t. That's why this holiday season it's important to look at the brand name and the seller because anyone can sell any branded product through Amazon.