“When buying cosmetics, online in particular, we have to be extremely careful,” says Dr Chris Flower, director general of the The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA) . This 10-step rule book is how we can begin to take better beauty care:
1. The purchase point: “Purchasing your products at authorised stores and counters is the only way to ensure that the product you are receiving is genuine and meets the safety and quality standards expected,” explains Gregg Marrazzo, senior vice president and deputy general counsel of Estée Lauder Companies Inc.
“Counterfeit products can quite often appear to be authentic. That’s why the only way to ensure the products you are purchasing are genuine is to purchase them from authorised stores and counters. We continue to work with law enforcement and the courts in an effort to address any outlet distributing or selling counterfeit product to minimise the potential danger that this could cause to consumers.” He goes on: “Unless consumers purchase through an authorised retailer, it is difficult to know if a product is authentic and safe, if it has been tampered with, whether it has been stored correctly, etc.” Visit www.brand-i.org to check for legitimate stockists.
The CTPA adds “Be suspicious of any products offered for sale from unusual places such as car boot sales, markets or less well-known internet sites.”
2. Discounts: “If you buy something online at a fraction of the retail price, and there seems to be an awful lot available to buy, that should ring alarm bells.” warns Flower. “Yes, we all love a discount and genuine products can seem expensive, but we hear horror stories around budget beauty products. That pound saving isn’t worth your health.”
Maria Woodall, detective superintendent of the City of London Police adds “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”
3. Broken websites: “There have been cases where genuine retail websites have been hacked by fraudsters. So customers think they’re buying form a reputable company, when in fact they’re buying fake products at high prices,” explains Flower. “In these cases, users have reported noticing problems when logging in – the website often refreshes itself after logging in. If something looks strange, or doesn’t feel right, log out, and log back in again. If it’s still not right, contact the company – they’ll love you for it as they don’t want fraudsters getting away with it either.” PIPCU have suspended more than 5,500 websites selling fake luxury branded goods in the last 18 months.
These bogus sites also have implications for your personal and financial information, as Woodall explains; “Not only could these products have serious implications to your health and well-being, but by simply going online and buying from a rogue site or dealer, your personal and financial information is at risk. We have had victims who have bought fake items online only to discover later than the criminals behind the site have used their payment details to make further purchases, or even use their personal details to set up hundreds of illegal sites selling counterfeit goods.”
4. Know your grammar: Check the spelling and the grammar of the website and URL, as “often the people behind these sites do not pay a lot of attention or care to this detail.” So too may “Fraudsters … also try to deceive you by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address.”
5. Check the contacts: Does the trader provide a postal address? If there is no address, or just a PO Box or email, be wary.
6. Site check: Only deal with reputable sellers, and only use sites you know or ones that have been recommended to you. “If you have not bought from the seller before, do your research and check online reviews. People will often turn to forums and blogs to warn others of fake sites,” says PIPCU. Alternatively, see if the website is a legitimate stockist by visiting www.brand-i.org.
7. Secure payment: Ensure the website address begins with ‘https’ at the payment stage, as “this indicates secure payment” explains PIPCU. “Watch out for pop-ups appearing asking you to confirm your card details before you are on the payment stage. Never enter your PIN online.”
8. Update your firewall: Regularly update your internet browser when a new patch security update is released.
9. The returns policy: Most rogue traders won’t offer a returns policy, it’s a warning sign.
10. Don’t access unsolicited links: Fraudsters will design unsolicited emails, along with websites, warns PIPCU, “to trick victims into entering personal information, when in fact they are fraudulent. Always type in the website address or use a search engine to find a site.”