Identifying Genuine vs. Counterfeit Merchandise: 5 Ways to Spot a Fake

With online purchases from websites like eBay and Craigslist steadily increasing, so are the occurrences of sellers peddling counterfeit items. From faux designer sunglasses to knockoff handbags, it can be hard to know you’re getting the real deal when you buy online sight unseen. In fact, it can even be difficult to distinguish real from fake in person. How can you spot the phonies and ensure you’re only spending your hard-earned money on authentic merchandise? These five tips will help set you up with the information you need next time you shop.

Look at the items you currently own, or do some research

If you already own products from the brands you’re interested in, take a good look at them before you start shopping. Pay attention to logos, inscriptions, tags and other unique details that set that brand apart. Counterfeiters don’t always carry over these details into their versions, so they serve as tell-tale signs to determine real vs. fake. If you don’t currently own something by the brand or designer you’re interested in, do some research online to familiarize yourself with these particulars.

Examine the craftsmanship

High-end designer products are held to a higher standard than those you can get for half the cost. They have superior craftsmanship and detailing, usually resulting in a longer lifespan. When you’re browsing for designer handbags, shoes or clothes, examine the stitching, seams and logo placement. Something like a misaligned logo is a dead giveaway that it isn’t authentic. If you’re shopping for designer sunglasses, the same can be said for printed logos. You should also pay attention to screws and lenses to see how sturdy and well-aligned they are. Quality assurance is strict with name brands but sparse with counterfeiters, so these are good ways to tell the difference.

Look for spelling and grammatical errors

It may seem like something that only happens in funny movies, but counterfeit products often contain glaring spelling errors and misspellings. Thoroughly inspect tags and imprinted words on the product, as well as its packaging. Many counterfeits originate from foreign countries where English is not the native language, thus making such errors commonplace.

Pay attention to packaging

You wouldn’t expect to buy a pair of Oakley sunglasses  and not receive the signature branded pouch with them. Or order a Coach bag online and have it show up in a plain box with no branding. These are both sure signs of counterfeit merchandise. Take note of flimsy packaging as well as packaging that includes misaligned printing, misspelled words, or logos that don’t quite look authentic. You should also pay attention to the paperwork included inside the box. Look for legitimate receipts and advertising materials from the manufacturer. It’s very unlikely that these kinds of things wouldn’t be included with an authentic product.

Be realistic about price

A Louis Vuitton product for $50? I don’t think so! If you’ve found a deal like this that seems too good to be true, it probably is. You may find some decent prices on used products from private sellers, but anything new at such a drastically reduced rate is likely not the real thing. Also, it’s important to note that you should be on the lookout for fakes even when buying products from past seasons, especially from private sellers.

The bottom line

There’s a lot of money to be made in the counterfeit goods industry. That’s why it’s important to be vigilant and keep the above five tips in mind so you don’t end up with an inauthentic product that’s not worth the money. Become familiar with the products you’re interested in and you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to distinguish genuine prodTucts from knockoffs.

This post is sponsored by LensCrafters.


  1. Thanks for these tips Rachel… bloggers we really should stand our ground against there counterfeiters!

  2. I think craftsmanship is a biggie. Also with leather products its sooo easy by smell and touch to spot a fake.

  3. Very well put together! I had to learn all of these things the hard way. First indicator for me is always price. There’s just a price point where finding a bag (unripped and in good condition) is just impossible. After that, it’s definitely the packaging.

    This goes for make-up too! I once ordered high-end make-up on eBay. It was shipping from the US and wasn’t too cheap, but a good deal. I opened up the shipping box and all looked well. Opened up the packaging and tried putting it on… Right away, something was wrong. The texture and color were totally off. I probably never would have known had I not used the product before! Luckily, I got a full refund after calling them out. Beware!

  4. Great tips! I think the number one thing to keep in mind when trying to determine if a product is real/fake is this: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Also, I know that there’s a forum out there (I forgot the name) that’s dedicated to authenticating designer bags. Apparently the ladies that frequent it know their stuff!

  5. Great tips! I only buy designer goods from authorized retailers but I can see how eBay and similar site could be attractive for people looking for a deal!

  6. Great post Rachel! I’ve often wondered about a lot of the high end products that appear online and question whether they’re actually authentic. Like everyone else I’d love to own an amazing designer bag but the cost is a little scary, so I can see why people search the web for great deals.

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