This Holiday Season INTA Is Asking Consumers to Act Vigilantly When Making E-commerce Purchases via Social Media

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Social counterfeiting is on the rise. With the holidays right around the corner, the International Trademark Association (INTA) is asking consumers to shop with care this season, especially when shopping via social media.

Social counterfeiting is on the rise. A recently published report by the UK IP Crime Group found that the sale of counterfeit goods via social media rose 15% in 2013 / 14. A separate study, authored by two Italian cyber-security experts, found that 24% of all Facebook ads for fashion and luxury goods linked to websites selling counterfeit items. The International Trademark Association (INTA) is asking consumers to shop with care this holiday season, especially when shopping via social media.

Brands have flocked to social media at the same pace as their customers, and the counterfeits have followed the real brands. Enforcement agencies and brands have reacted by extending their monitoring activities to social media yet it is proving particularly difficult to identity and track down counterfeiters in these environments. Illicit traders are able to close and open accounts in a matter of minutes, and they make use of the same privacy settings put in place to protect users. At the same time, the general public is largely unaware to the fact that there are illegal websites advertising counterfeit goods on major social networks such as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Major social networks are taking steps to address the issue of phony ads and have reporting mechanisms (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter) for both consumers and brand owners on their platforms. “The battle against counterfeiting has certainly been compounded by social media,” said INTA President Mei-lan Stark. “The way forward in addressing this serious issue involves all stakeholders, including law enforcement, brand owners, consumers and the social networks, working together to identify, isolate and stop the counterfeiters.”

Cyber Monday—which follows Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day on the American consumers’ calendar—has witnessed year on year growth and sales records. In 2012, online sales in the U.S. rose by 30% to a record high (CNN Money, November 27, 2012). In 2013, sales rose again by 20.6% to a record $2.29 billion, making it the biggest online shopping day in history (CNN Money, December 3, 2013). Consumers looking to take advantage of the deals they encounter on social media this holiday season are encouraged to take the following action:

1.    Verify websites by checking the brand’s list of authorized retailers.
2.    Examine the Internet domain name, or “URL,” for suspicious errors in spelling of the brand name or trademark.
3.    Look out for terms such as ‘cheap’ or ‘discount’ often included in the social media ads by counterfeiters.
4.    Be extra cautious when providing your credit card details online.
5.    Help brands and social networks in the battle against counterfeiting by reporting illicit websites.

About INTA
The International Trademark Association (INTA) is a global association of trademark owners and professionals dedicated to supporting trademarks and related intellectual property in order to protect consumers and to promote fair and effective commerce. Members include more than 6,400 trademark owners, professionals and academics from more than 190 countries, who benefit from the Association’s global trademark resources, policy development, education and training, and international network. Founded in 1878, INTA is headquartered in New York City, with offices in Brussels, Shanghai and Washington, D.C., and representatives in Geneva and Mumbai.

This press release can be found here on inta.org.

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