The 10 Most Counterfeited Products in The World

By: Devon Taylor (@DevonTaylor113)

We’ve all seen counterfeit products sold at street vendors and open air markets. Whether it is fake designer purses, sunglasses or pirated movies, counterfeit products abound. However, the global trade in counterfeit products seems to be escalating in today’s globalized world. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently issued a study that estimates the global trade in counterfeit brands and products at a whopping $591 billion a year. That’s roughly the size of the Australian economy, which is pretty big. The OECD singles out China as the nerve centre for fake products and says few brands are off limits when it comes to making knock-offs. And the counterfeit trade shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Here then is a list of the 10 most counterfeited products in the world today.


10. Food Products

It might seem a little strange to think that food products and well-known brands of food could be counterfeited, but that is increasingly the case – especially as food prices around the world continue to rise and companies charge a premium for their brands, whether it be coffee, chocolate or fruit. For example, in Canada, the most popular and profitable coffee store chain is named “Tim Hortons,” after a hockey player (of course). However, in South Korea, people are sold “Tim Mortons” coffee, which is a blatant knock off of the popular Canadian caffeine product. Specifically, people can buy “Tim Mortons Mocha Gold Coffee Mix” at street vendors in Seoul. And it is packaged and sold with the exact same branding as the original. Only a Canadian would know the difference. Other popular counterfeit foods include everything from Dole bananas to Lindor chocolate.

9. Designer Labels / Tags

It’s well-known that many people buy clothes because of the label or tag on it. A particular label is a status symbol and shows that a person has both good taste and money. Whether it is the Polo Ralph Lauren horse on a shirt, a Levis red tag on the back pocket of a pair of jeans, or the Armani tag on a suit, most people shop for brand name clothing. And nobody knows this more than counterfeiters, which is why there are massive factories in China churning out nothing but fake designer labels and tags that can be sewn onto cheap clothes and sold for a premium. Look closely and you will see that horse on the Ralph Lauren knock-off is not quite the same as the original. But from a distance it is close enough to fool people. And at a fraction of the price of a real branded label, the fake tag business has proven to be very popular and lucrative.

8. Computers

Computers, particularly lap-tops, have become increasingly popular in the counterfeit trade. Knock-offs of popular computer brands such as Dell, HP and notably Apple are becoming more common place at raids and seizures of counterfeit goods. Also popular are counterfeit computer accessories, which can include everything from integrated circuits and semiconductors to recycled hard drives and printer cartridges. The problem has become so bad that The Semiconductor Industry Association has taken to issuing warnings about the dangers of using counterfeit semiconductors in everything from computers to household appliances. Many counterfeiters scavenge computer parts from e-waste drop off locations, recycle them, give them a fake brand name and sell them for a profit.

7. Pharmaceutical Drugs

Probably the scariest counterfeit item on this list has to do with pharmaceutical drugs. Counterfeit drugs have been reported to cause serious harm to people, including death. But with medication prices being too expensive for people to afford in many countries, the market for fake pharmaceuticals among desperately ill people continues to grow. And counterfeit pharmaceuticals can include everything from Aspirin to morphine. There have been global reports of babies dying in China because their parents bought counterfeit baby formula that had no nutritional value, as well as AIDS patients in Africa overdosing on fraudulent medications that were purchased in open air bazaars. Fake pharmaceuticals often contain no medicine at all and simply have clever packaging and labeling. Sadly, many people realize this fact too late.


6. Movies

In places such as Hong Kong, people can purchase a DVD or Blu-Ray of a new movie in the streets the very same day that the film debuts in theatres. For a fraction of the cost of a movie ticket, people can watch the latest Fast and Furious movie from the comfort of their living room on a pirated DVD or Blu-Ray disc. This is because enterprising pirates have filmed the movie on a camcorder, or using their smart phone, while seated at the back of a movie theatre and then transferred it to a DVD or Blu-ray disc and rushed it for sale in the street. Many pirated movies also pop-up on online streaming websites. The problem of pirated movies has become so pervasive that websites such as “Torrent Freak” have taken to listing the “10 Most Pirated Movies of the Week.” Hollywood studios estimate that they lose a combined $2.5 billion annually due to pirated films sold worldwide, particularly in Asia.

5. Sneakers/Shoes

Whether it is a pair of Nike sneakers or Jimmy Choo pumps, knock offs of popular footwear brands is big business for counterfeiters. People all over the world seem willing to pay for fake footwear that is close to the real brand but at about 10% of the cost. In fact, fake shoe brands have gotten so good and so sophisticated that law enforcement agencies admit it is increasingly hard to spot counterfeit footwear. Last year, executives at Nike stated that for every one pair of legitimate Nike sneakers sold in the world, there is a fake pair sold as well. Among the most popular counterfeit shoes are Nike Air Jordan, Puma, Fendi and Doc Martins. And, the sale of fake shoes is one of the fastest growing segments of the worldwide counterfeit trade.

4. Smart Phones

Everybody wants the latest Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smart phone. However, top brands of these devices are expensive and out of reach for many people, particularly teens and young adults. And it is this high price point that is fueling the rapid rise in counterfeit smart phones. In 2015, New York City Police seized 20,000 counterfeit smart phones in one raid. What was telling about the bust was that the counterfeit smart phones included knock-offs of nearly every major brand in the world, including Apple, Samsung, LG, Nokia and Motorola. Tech experts say that the counterfeiting of smart phones is overwhelming the industry, while law enforcement peg consumer electronics as the fastest growing area of counterfeit goods around the world.

3. Jewelry / Accessories

From a Cartier necklace to Tiffany earrings and Ray-Ban sunglasses, jewelry and fashion accessories are among the most often seen counterfeit products. Fake jewelry and sunglasses are regularly put on display along busy streets in major cities such as New York and San Francisco. They are the counterfeit items many of us are most familiar with. This is because fake jewelry and accessories such as sunglasses are typically the cheapest items to counterfeit and sell. And they are popular with tourists and people who are willing to spend money on vacation for a decent looking bracelet or pair of shades. Of course the quality of these items usually leaves something to be desired. But for $5, can you really go wrong with a pair of ‘Bay-Ran’ or ‘Ray-Bun’ sunglasses?

2. Watches

More people are walking around with a fake Rolex on their wrist than we’d like to acknowledge. Fake watches continue to be among the most pervasive and popular counterfeit goods around the world. Seemingly every conceivable brand of watch – Rolex, Omega, Tissot, Hublot, Seiko, Swatch – seems to have a counterfeit version. And they are widely available for sale in most places. While a real Rolex can cost $70,000 or more to purchase, a fake Rolex can be had for as little as $25 from a street vendor. And while the quality of the counterfeit item is not great, the fake branding is increasingly sophisticated and believable. People can be forgiven for finding it difficult to spot a fake Tissot watch from the genuine article. The branding by counterfeiters has gotten that good.


1. Handbags / Purses / Wallets

Let’s be honest. We all know someone who owns a fake Prada or Gucci handbag. That’s because when it comes to counterfeit goods, knock-off handbags, purses and wallets reign supreme. Guess, Hermes, Givenchy and Versace are all popular global brands that are regularly counterfeited and sold for cheap. Fake handbags are most popular, but so too are branded purses and wallets. The reason for this is simple – the real item costs too much money. Prada handbags sell for as much as $4,000. Why pay that much when you can get one that looks identical to the real thing for $40 in the street? And the fake handbags, purses and wallets look very close to the real product. The logos are slightly different, but the style, design and colors are nearly identical to the real brand. And it is this proximity to the true brand that makes the investment in a counterfeit handbag worth the risk for many people. Just don’t tell that to the police.