Understanding the issues and risks of counterfeits

Jan. 16, 2008
Be sure to clearly state the issues and risks of counterfeits to everyone within your organization to prevent problems.

Clearly state the issues and risks of counterfeits to everyone within your organization who has responsibilities for sourcing, handling, using or maintaining MRO and supply parts. Give them these tips to help avoid acquiring or using suspect parts, and encourage them to question anything out of the ordinary with your suppliers. For mission-critical parts, develop a second, enhanced level of ordering, receiving and managing inventory.

  • Look for the mark – A system of standards exists for product testing and certification. Be wary of electrical, mechanical, plumbing, gas or other standardized products if they don’t have a certification mark from a nationally recognized testing laboratory (NRTL).
  • Inspect the mark – Legitimate certification marks have distinctive graphics that often aren’t accurately reproduced by counterfeits. For a current list of NRTLs or their marks, visit OSHA’s Web site at www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/nrtl/index.html.
  • Poor spelling – Look for misspellings and unclear printing on packaging, products, labels or instructions.
  • Inferior packaging – Counterfeit packaging might show poor quality such as blurred markings or partial illustrations. Red flags include questionable or meaningless markings, or foreign newspapers used as packaging.
  • Missing items – Check for missing product information or discrepancies between package contents and the item’s description on the package. There also might be missing instructions, screws or terminals.
  • Cheap production – If a device looks and feels too light and flimsy, it might be a fake. Check for signs of used appearance, evidence of tampering/repairs, broken seals, scratches, obvious wear, corrosion, pitting, and inconsistent material types, finishes and/or colors.
  • Significantly lower pricing – Deals that are too good to be true could mean a device is counterfeit, and so it should be checked even more closely.
  • Questionable source – Buy only from reputable, well-known distributors or retailers.