IP, or intellectual property, is all around us, according to UL’s Monica Mena, senior manager of outreach and capacity building, anticounterfeiting operations.

“It’s the idea, the innovation, that went into the design of your phone, your favorite athletic shoes and your car,” Mena said. “It’s also in the formulation of the drug that helps you manage your blood pressure or your headaches. All of the brands you enjoy and trust are built on the foundation of IP.”

When intellectual property rights are violated, it could create dangerous situations in addition to harming the legitimate businesses that profit from IP and help build strong economies.

Is it a bargain or a danger?

Counterfeit products — cheap replicas of genuine products — hurt the trust consumers have in brands. Counterfeiters have no concern about the health and safety risks of the products they sell. Deadly results could happen in response to a counterfeit medicine or electrical product.

“In 2016, UL did a study on 400 counterfeit Apple iPhone adapters and found a 99 percent failure rate, meaning they failed one of two simple tests that gauge a product’s safety with regard to electric shock,” Mena said. “A charger plugged into an outlet in your home, that has failed one of these tests, could cause a fire.”

The anonymity of online marketplaces

No industry is immune to counterfeiting, including food, electronics, automotive parts, toys and even wine. Online shopping makes it especially hard to protect your family and yourself, so you need to stay informed to stay protected.

If you ever find a deal online that is too good to be true, chances are it is. A significantly lower price could be a warning that the product isn’t authentic.

Look for the safety mark

Another way to make sure your product is safe is to check for safety certification marks. Marks, from organizations such as UL, certify the quality and performance of a product. You can check for products with the UL Mark online via Product IQ™.

Counterfeiters generally don’t put much work into the items they create, so examine the product packaging and labels. Avoid any products with missing or misspelled words, poor quality labels or out-of-date product codes.

If you’re concerned about buying online, try to find a legitimate seller you know and trust. Buying from authorized distributors and resellers can help ensure a genuine product. If you need more assurance, check on customer feedback to see if there are reports of faulty products or customer dissatisfaction.

Now that you know the importance of IP, stay on the look out to make sure you’re getting the highest quality and safest products you can.

SafeBee Top Three

1. Avoid noticeably lower prices, as a cheap product may not be authentic

2. Look for errors on the product’s packaging

3. Buy from authorized distributors and resellers