How Look-alike Brands from China are Trying to Rip You Off

Some ads are so convincing, even the savviest shoppers are fooled. Instead of receiving a branded product, customers are purchasing a crappy knock-off version that oftentimes barely resembles the original.

If you shop online and use Facebook (who doesn’t?), you’ve probably noticed an increase in advertisements in recent years. You’ve probably also noticed the accompanying spike in ads for heavily discounted products from well-known brands. It seems too good to be true, and it is.  

The catch should be obvious, but some ads are so convincing, even the savviest shoppers are fooled. Instead of receiving a branded product, customers are purchasing a crappy knock-off version that oftentimes barely resembles the original. In the worst case scenario, they don’t even receive anything at all.

One of the most shocking cases we heard about was a brand called SheFit. Company founder, Sara Moylan, posted a video of her patented SheFit bra, which does up in the front, has an adjustable velcro band and a pull from the front of the straps that lifts and separates. The innovative technology allows the bra to fit everyone and also adjusts to fluctuations in size.

Sounds like heaven for the girls, right? Well, naturally the video went viral and a rapid succession of scammers started illegally using it shortly after the success. Confused customers got angry when they received poorly constructed imitations, often missing the most compelling part of the design. Some customers didn’t even receive anything at all.

Racked reports that retailers, mainly from China, had begun to use the video to promote their own cheap versions. Moylan tells Racked that the “absolute worst” scenario was from a site called Gear Just For You, whose “extreme lift adjustable sports bra” ad amassed 25 million views, 20,000 comments, and more than 55,000 shares within only several months. Other scammers even labelled their bras with misleading logos like “SFit.”

And it’s not only branded product that consumers purchasing through Facebook have to look out for. While knock-off sites like Zaful and Rosegal are easier to spot for what they really are, their ads can still be very persuasive using product photos from other established brands on their website.

So while you fully realize you’re purchasing a knock-off, the photos mislead you to think the product is pretty damn close to the original or much better quality than it really is. We’ve all seen posts of knock-off nightmares on social media from fuming customers who are left speechless by how awful the fit of the garment is.

There are endless cases where the difference between the advertised product and what they received is so horrible, it’s laughable and in most cases, returns are not an option. An article by the Independant reveals that at least eight of these websites operate under a Chinese e-commerce company called ShenZhen Global Egrow E-Commerce Co., so reaching customer service is near impossible because of the geographic barrier.

As to be expected, the consumer watchdogs annual scam report showed a sharp increase in scams taking place through social media sites, such as Facebook too. The report identified a 47 percent spike in reports received about scams, while another source indicates that ShenZhen Global Egrow E-Commerce Co. amassed a whopping $200 million in sales in 2014.

Even Facebook admits scamming is a huge problem despite strict laws on copyright infringement and the implementation of new publisher tools to assist in tracking down infringing content. While the publishing tool is a step in the right direction, the software is aimed at publishers and movie studios, not retailers who unexpectedly go viral states Racked.

“Tracking tools need to be further developed and retailers need to further educate themselves on how to deal with scams.”

More times than not these types of startups are also lacking the skill and knowledge in how to deal with infringement making it even more difficult to track and control. A lot of the time they are just as unsuspecting as the consumer.

What it really comes down to is a joint effort between social media sites and retailers; tracking tools need to be further developed and retailers need to further educate themselves on how to deal with scams. Consumers also need to do their research when purchasing on Facebook or any social media site and air on the side of caution.

Let this be a warning that when the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Sources: abc.net, The Independent, Racked

What do you think about look-alike brands from China ripping off unaware customers? Share with us in the comments!

Featured image: Instagram/ @shefitapparel

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