Remembrance Sunday, which falls on 11 November 2018, is a day for the nation to commemorate the contribution of men and women who have sacrificed themselves for our freedom, wearing a remembrance poppy to show support and appreciation. But unfortunately – like a lot of major events, including the World Cup and the Tour de France – if there’s money to be made, counterfeiters will be looking to profit from it.

World Cup mania earlier this year provided fraudsters with a major opportunity to push counterfeit goods into the marketplace and make a quick profit. To counter the surge, local authorities across the UK conducted operations to tackle and seize counterfeit items being sold. One operation resulted in the seizure of more than £240,000 worth of fake football shirts.

During this year’s Tour de France, fraudsters manufactured counterfeit helmets based off those worn by teams participating in the event to capitalise on the nation-wide interest. Incopro uncovered a range of counterfeit options being sold online, including items that appeared to be very similar to the genuine helmets worn by teams participating in the Tour de France – the only difference is they are sold at a reduced price, are made with sub-standard materials and are in no way fit for purpose.

And, without a doubt, Remembrance Sunday will be yet another opportunity for fraudsters to sell fake poppies and capitalize on the goodwill of those wishing to show their support.

Be “extra vigilant,” says the Intellectual Property Office and Royal British Legion

With the above considered, it makes good sense for the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and The Royal British Legion (RBL) to urge members of the British public to be “extra vigilant” when buying poppy merchandise ahead of Remembrance Sunday. The donations – intended to support Armed Forces community men, women, veterans and their families – could end up benefitting fraudsters if the British public unknowingly buy them.

To combat the influx of fake poppies, the IPO and RBL have teamed up with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) – a department of the City of London Police and the leading national force for fraud. PIPCU has since issued a warning over fake poppies after hundreds were found on one of China’s largest online shopping stores.

And it’s not just fake poppies that are being sold by fraudulent sellers looking to take advantage of Remembrance Day. Fake poppy-themed scarves, jewelry, pins, and broaches are all being illegally manufactured to take advantage of the commemoration with the profits going straight into the pockets of the fraudulent sellers – many of whom use these finances to fund organized criminal activities.

Counterfeit goods support organized criminal activities

The links between the selling of counterfeit goods and organized crime are well-established; a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime states that “the illicit trafficking of counterfeit goods is often linked to other serious crimes.

Europol has warned that counterfeiting is an increasingly attractive avenue for organized crime to diversify their product range”. The IPO also states that IP criminal offenses – i.e. the counterfeiting of brand products – are often associated with organized crime groups.

Estimates from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) estimate that the global economic value of counterfeiting and piracy could reach $2.3 trillion (£1.75 trillion) by 2022 – with the wider impact causing even greater financial implications.

Even charities must keep their IP protected

For consumers in doubt about the authenticity of the commemorative poppies, scarves, badges and other items they see ahead of this Remembrance Sunday, buy them directly through The Royal British Legion Poppy Shop or through its official eBay or Amazon shop (the Royal British Legion Amazon shop can be found by typing in “Royal British Legion” into the Amazon search engine).

Identifying counterfeit goods is increasingly difficult; counterfeiters have reached a point where they are able to make incredibly convincing replicas of official products. Without intricate assessment, to the untrained eye, a consumer would not be able to tell if a product was genuine or not!

Certainly, a responsibility lies upon the shoulders of brands to protect consumers from the swathe of counterfeits out there; this means identifying counterfeit sellers and goods online and ensuring those sellers and goods are permanently removed from marketplaces.

However, at the same time, consumers must exercise vigilance and carefully assess what they are buying – whether online or offline. The fact of the matter is that if a product’s price is too good to be true, it usually is. In the case of Remembrance Sunday, this means looking out for the Royal British Legion’ symbol wherever poppies (and other commemorative items) are being sold.

If stalls or those selling the items do not have the Royal British Legion symbol on them or their stall, consumers are most likely looking at fake poppies and counterfeit goods.

Penned by Simon Baggs, CEO and co-founder, Incopro