It took no more than a glance at today’s USA Today (yes, dear readers, I’m staying in a hotel again) to realize that merchandise counterfeiters have a new target: The Louis Vuitton Tribute Patchwork Bag. Now I ain’t no fashionista, but this thing is uggg-ly. Even the Bagsnob site referred to the $42,000 monster as "frankenstein."
Brand name shoes, cosmetics, designer clothes, cigarettes, sports wear, toys, wine, software & movie discs and frighteningly, pharmaceuticals, auto and aircraft parts and electronics all fall prey to counterfeiters. Basically, if a product can be manufactured, it can be diverted and counterfeited.
Counterfeiting is the handiwork of unscrupulous manufacturers who create products or labels of legitimate goods and sell the fakes. China is the home of many counterfeit manufacturing operations, but it happens all over the world, including inside the US and Europe. Diversion, another threat to manufacturers and retailers, is the sneaky business of, say, buying a shipment of US goods in Colombia at a discounted price, then reselling it into the US at a higher price. Manufacturers, consumer groups, and retail stores are beginning to fight back.
I was surprised by the scope of this nearly trillion dollar black- and gray-market activity. Then I was excited that, as security professionals, we have many tools to combat the problems of counterfeiting. For one thing, we have security cameras in store aisles and loading docks monitored by skilled professionals. We have video analytics and guards walking tours. We have investigators who can interview suspected fraudsters, and behavior analysis best practices we can convey to employees and partners. Invisible printing can foil the bar code pirates, plus there are UV and infrared techniques for printing invisibly on the labels so the check out readers can see the codes, while a digital snapshot can’t. There are also clever new security technologies like taggants in inks, RFID labels, and tiny non-line-of-site technologies that can be easily inserted in labels, or even in the goods themselves, to ensure authenticity. Taggants may also have the added quality of being undetectable even under forensic analysis. That makes them impossible to duplicate by counterfeiters.