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The rise of the super-fake

How solutions designed to counter the problem of fakes can actually make the problem worse?

As brands adopt Digital Product IDs to support their brand protection, sustainability, traceability and engagement strategies, underestimating the importance of security can actually lead to damaging consequences that can lead to an increased risk of counterfeiting.

The new symbols of trust

The fraudster Frank Abagnale Jr., whose story inspired the movie "Catch Me If You Can" starring Leonardo DiCaprio, successfully flew thousands of miles around the world, cashing fake checks across America for years. His ability to do so was largely due to his disguise as a pilot, a highly respected profession at the time. The uniform created a sense of authenticity and trust that caused his victims to lower their guard and overlook any potential red flags.

As connected products become increasingly common, digital markers have become an important indicator of authenticity. Connected products have changed the consumer's perception of authenticity and what actually makes a product genuine. Products lacking this marker may be perceived as fake, even if they are genuine. Conversely, counterfeit products may appear more authentic if they possess a marker, further complicating the issue.

Consumers tend to place implicit trust in technology, leading them
to drop their guard when assessing a product's authenticity. In the past, they may have been more cautious and relied on touch, appearance, or other physical characteristics to determine a product's genuineness. However, the presence of a digital marker, such as an NFC or QR code, can be a distraction and make them less attentive to these physical cues.

The illusion of authenticity

Consumers that connect to a digital marker to authenticate a product can still be misled. Cloned IDs of inadequately secured markers will falsely certify the authenticity of a counterfeit product. While fake markers that are designed to look and behave like the authentic ones of the brand can be applied to products by fraudsters that simply redirect users to a brand's website, which is often enough to trick the consumer into believing it is genuine. Digital IDs are enabling counterfeit products to become increasingly convincing, and causing consumers to become more vulnerable to being deceived.

Counterfeiters play on consumer expectations that a marker will activate a digital journey. The simulated experiences say the product is authentic, sustainable, resellable and lend it unquestioned credibility. Consumers are tricked in a similar way as SMS and email phishing scams. Where in the past the consumer may have harboured doubts about the authenticity of a product, the digital ID and its journey causes them to let their guard down. The product's self-certification as being authentic is trusted implicitly and removes any doubts they may have had. The digital fake has become a ‘super-fake’ that takes on an entirely new capacity to fool the consumer.

Countering the issue

There is a solution to counter this phenomenon. It demands adopting a ‘Secure by Design™’ approach to security that considers the strategies, needs and limitations of all stakeholders in the issue, including the brand, consumer and even the counterfeiter. Certilogo’s authentication service allows brands to recognise authentic products, as well as intercepting, recognising and managing instances where the consumer encounters products with cloned or fake IDs. This enables brands to protect their consumers, recover lost sales and gather data that supports investigations and empowers actions that can counter the issue.

Counterfeit products already pollute the market for new fashion products, with Certilogo data determining that an average of 3 in 10 consumer fashion purchases are fakes.  As brands are increasingly adopting connected products to support their sustainability, traceability and consumer engagement strategies, if they underestimate the importance of securing their Digital Product IDs, then they risk the situation getting even worse.

14 Jun 2023

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