Counterfeiting affects many, if not all industries, be it electronics, pharmaceuticals, beauty products, luxury fashion or toys. The increase of fake goods in the market has an impact on many areas of business, and in some instances, that impact extends beyond economics and affects the health and safety of consumers.

According to a report published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD.org), fake goods constitute 2.5 percent of global imports and are worth nearly half a trillion dollars a year. U.S., Italian and French brands are the hardest hit, and in many cases, the proceeds of the counterfeit trade go towards organized crime.

Jason Daniels, UL’s Senior Investigation Manager, Americas, Global Security & Brand Protection says that price is the biggest determining factor as to why people are attracted to counterfeit products, “They may think, why pay the legit price for an item when you can have it for much less?” He adds that some people are aware that they are purchasing counterfeits while others simply think they are getting a good deal.

The greatest challenge in curbing counterfeiting is the difficulty in controlling the rapid growth of the online marketplace which gives consumers access to products all over the world. Daniels says that it is getting harder to even detect fraud Web sites since many appear to be authentic. And even some legitimate sites will sometimes have ads that link to counterfeit site.

Daniels says the three products that are currently popular among counterfeiters are power supplies for various devices such as computers and other electrical goods; lithium ion batteries for mobile phones and computers; and lighting products.

Consumers who purchase these products run a high risk of damaging their electronic devices or injuring themselves as counterfeit products rarely adhere to safety standards. Daniels equates the purchase as playing a game of Russian Roulette and advises consumers to not compromise safety at any cost. He recommends going to the official brand Web sites to find out if there are any issues about the authenticity of the product; as most brands which are experiencing counterfeit issues have information on their Web sites to help consumers identify possible counterfeit products.

Also, if a product is sold at an ultra-low price or if you suspect the seller is dubious, inspect the product for authentic certification and check and see if the merchant has a report at the Better Business Bureau. You can also check out UL’s online directory to enable the public to trace products that display the UL mark or holographic labels.

And if you have spent a significant amount on a product to discover later that it is counterfeit and don’t have buyer protection, you can either request a refund, do a charge-back within the allowed period of your debit/credit card, or file a complaint with the state consumer authority. You can find a list at USA.gov.