China is usually regarded as the country responsible for producing more counterfeit products than any other, and counterfeit memorabilia from the Beijing Olympics will likely be circulating for months to come. News reports suggest the Chinese government took a strong stance against such items, but they're still circulating in countries around the world.
Where will consumers find these fake items? They're likely going to be sold primarily by street vendors and on eBay. Buyers will be offered pins, T-shirts, hats, and other clothing that is not officially licensed, meaning they aren't "authentic" Olympics items.
Some buyers might not care whether their new t-shirt is an official one or not. But advocates of licensing rights say that selling knock-offs is wrong because products with the Olympic logo should only be sold by those who have paid the licensing fees entitling them to do so.
Probably the best way to spot a fake is by its price. If the price is far below the price of the authentic goods, you can be almost certain that you're buying a fake. Consumers might want to shop only at sites that are known to be authorized to sell Olympics goods. (Think major brand names.) Stay away from eBay, which is likely to have many fakes, as well as other fly-by-night sites. Don't invest a lot of money in items suspected of being fakes, as they won't have much value in the years to come.
Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
Also read: Brand piracy bites China