The truth about knockoff designer products

May 21, 2010 7:36:51 AM PDT
They're known as knockoffs, copies or reproductions of high-end designer purses, watches, and jewelry. In the last four years, federal agents in Houston have seized $15 million worth of counterfeit goods -- and that's just the wholesale value.

But now the Internet is changing the way knockoffs are bought and sold, making it harder than ever to stop.

Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Tiffany -- more and more consumers are seeking out what looks real but isn't.

"I have fake stuff, and I have real stuff," one woman said.

"It's better to buy something fake that you can afford than put yourself into debt buying something real," another woman said.

Just type in the word replica and a list of websites pops up; are all touting fake goods.

Authorities tell us while it is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise, it is not illegal to buy it.

"By creating the demand, you are creating the supply," ICE Agent Andre Watson said.

Watson says while you may not get in legal trouble for ordering fakes on the Internet, it's still a bad idea.

"They are not subjected to the industry standards that are imposed by agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration," Watson said.

To see for ourselves, we placed an order. We bought a "replica" Louis Vuitton purse for $235, two knockoff Tiffany & Co. bracelets for $59 and $52 each and two replica Rolex watches for $130 each.

Our merchandise arrived a few weeks after we ordered it. We're not sure where the items were made, but we know the items arrived from China.

We took our fake Rolexes to an authorized dealer in Houston, to get their take on what we bought.

"Someone would think that you are wearing a Rolex, absolutely," Rolex dealer Bradly Marks said.

Rolexes don't tick. They have a perpetual second-hand movement. Our knock offs have that same feature and a serial number on the back. But once Marks picked up our knockoffs, there was a big difference in the weight and feel.

"Rolex does not have sharp edges," Marks said.

When the watches were taken apart, both sides didn't have serial numbers, Marks said. That's a tell-tale sign of a fake Rolex.

Then we took the replica Louis Vuitton purse to Houston Shoe Hospital.

Wendell Robinson is an expert at spotting knockoff Louis Vuittons. He says the Houston Shoe Hospital actually gets more requests to fix fakes than real ones.

"You see how that looks furry? That's the back side of vinyl," Robinson said.

Another sign of a fake bag is the YKK stamped on the zipper.

"When you try zip it, they are bound up," he said.

And the stitching on most fakes it will be uneven.

Robinson said our $235 knockoff was a really bad buy.

Finally, what about the Tiffany bracelets? Just by looking at them, our jeweler can't tell they're fake.

But after testing the metal, turns out, they're not just fake Tiffany -- they're also fake silver! It looks like we spent $111 on junk jewelry.

So knockoff buyers beware: You may be getting even less than you bargained for.

Authorities tell us they are rarely able go after the companies selling the fakes on Internet, since most of them operate overseas.


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