Counterfeiting: The Illegal Duplication of Currency and Products

Counterfeiting: The Illegal Duplication of Currency and Products

What is Counterfeiting?

A counterfeit is an imitation or a fake item that is usually created with the intent to deceptively represent its content or origins and increase the perceived value or appeal due to the reputation of the original product.

The word counterfeit most frequently describes forgeries of currency or documents, but can also describe clothing, software, pharmaceuticals, watches, or more recently, cars and motorcycles, especially when this results in patent infringement or trademark infringement.

All over the world, private individuals, gangs and criminal organizations participate in this criminal activity. They illegally duplicate everything from handbags, to jewelry, to money for their own financial gain. The tools, technology and processes used by these criminal organizations is becoming more and more sophisticated. Sometimes, even trained experts have a difficult time telling the real items from the fakes. This makes it increasingly difficult to identify counterfeited materials and even more difficult to trace the goods back to the producer.

The main reason behind the continued growth in fake products is there is very strong demand for the products. Those who produce the fakes are able to make them more cheaply than the original manufacturers, so in turn, they are able to sell them at a deeply discounted price. Those who purchase the goods are sometimes not aware they are purchasing a knock-off, so they are quite happy  with the greatly reduced price. In other cases, consumers are well-aware they are buying a knock-off, but they are fine with it because it looks very similar to the real thing.

As a result, the process continues to be a thriving industry. In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security confiscated over $1.7 billion in good at the U.S. Borders alone. This number doesn’t account for what may have slipped through undetected. Nor does it account for good pirated domestically and shipped and distributed within the United States.

What are the impacts?

The are a number of dangers involved with products produced by counterfeiters. First, they aren’t officially inspected by a government agency, so they may not be made up to standard and may have defects. Such products can cause physical harm, maybe even death to those who use them.

In addition, the illicit industry impacts the very cities in which they operate. The “business” owners don’t pay federal, state or city taxes. Also, the products may be made by children or teenagers who work in factories or warehouses that are unfit and unsafe.

Also, the industry often contributes to and supports organized crime organizations. Often, these organizations are involved with the manufacturing, distribution and sale of the goods. Down the line, the money received is often used for other criminal activity, such as to fund drug trafficking, prostitution and even terrorist activity.

Preventing Counterfeiting

The Secret Service has exclusive jurisdiction for investigations involving the counterfeiting of United States obligations and securities. This authority to investigate counterfeiting is derived from Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 3056. Some of the counterfeited United States obligations and securities commonly dealt with by the Secret Service include:

  • U.S. currency and coins
  • U.S. Treasury checks
  • Department of Agriculture food coupons
  • U.S. postage stamps

The Secret Service remains committed to the mission of combating counterfeiting by working closely with state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as foreign law enforcement agencies, to aggressively pursue counterfeiters. To perform at the highest level, the Secret Service constantly reviews the latest reprographic/lithographic technologies to keep a step ahead of the counterfeiters. The Secret Service maintains a working relationship with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Federal Reserve System to ensure the integrity of our currency. Visit the website at U.S. Secret Service – Counterfeit Division.

Resources to Help Consumers

The website Counterfeit Detection will help you determine if those colorful pieces of paper are worth the paper they are printed on , whether it is Dollars, Pounds, Euros, .etc. All banknotes are produced in a similar way and result in a similar set of characteristics. They also have security measures built into them which make them difficult to reproduce. However it is not possible to produce a counterfeit proof anything and there will always be individuals producing fakes.

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