Buyers Beware! Counterfeiting Can Cost Lives
THE untrained, unsuspecting victims can be fooled. The expensive-looking watch offered you by the street vendor at a fraction of the cost—is it real or fake? Will you buy it? The luxurious fur coat offered you from a car window on a side street—the seller promises it’s mink. Will its appeal and bargain price get in the way of your better judgment? The diamond ring on the finger of the recently divorced wife—now broke and homeless, waiting for a train in a New York subway station—you can have it for a mere pittance. Would you think the bargain was too good to pass up? Because these questions are asked in this article dealing with counterfeiting and because of the circumstances presented, you are likely to answer “NEVER!”
Ah, but let’s change the places and the circumstances and see what your answers would be. What about the expensive, popular designer handbag for sale at a legitimate outlet store at an attractive markdown price? The well-known brand of whiskey sold in the corner liquor store? Surely no problem here. Consider, also, the film with a recognizable label that is on sale in a drugstore or camera shop. This time the expensive watch costing thousands of dollars is offered to you, not by a street vendor, but by a reputable store. The price has been drastically reduced. If you were in the market for such an expensive timepiece, would you buy it? Then there are well-known brands of footwear at substantial savings in one particular shop you are directed to by friends. Are you sure they are not just cheap imitations?
In the world of art, at fashionable picture galleries, there are auction sales galore for collectors of expensive art. “Watch your back,” warned one art expert. “Connoisseurs with years of experience get fooled. So do dealers. So do museum curators.” Are you so learned that you would match wits with possible counterfeiters? Beware! All the pictured items could be counterfeit. Often they are. Remember, if an object is rare and has value, someone somewhere is going to try to counterfeit it.
Counterfeiting merchandise is a $200-billion enterprise worldwide and is “growing faster than many of the industries it’s preying on,” wrote Forbes magazine. Fake automobile parts cost American automakers and suppliers $12 billion a year in lost revenues worldwide. “The U.S. auto industry says it would employ another 210,000 people if it could manage to put phony parts suppliers out of business,” the magazine said. It is reported that about half the counterfeiting factories are outside the United States—virtually everywhere.
Counterfeits That Can Kill
Some kinds of counterfeit products are anything but harmless. Imported nuts, bolts, and screws make up 87 percent of the $6 billion of the U.S. market. Evidence to date, however, indicates that 62 percent of all these fasteners have fabricated brand names or illegitimate grade stamps. A 1990 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) found at least 72 American “nuclear power plants had installed nonconforming fasteners, some in systems to shut down the reactor in case of nuclear accident. The problem is getting worse, says the GAO. . . . The magnitude of the problem, cost to taxpayers or potential dangers resulting from using such [inferior] products are unknown,” reported Forbes.
Steel bolts, whose strengths are inadequate for the purposes used, have been counterfeited and smuggled into the United States by unscrupulous contractors. “They could threaten the safety of office buildings, power plants, bridges and military equipment,” according to American Way.
Imitation brake linings were blamed for a bus crash in Canada several years ago that took the lives of 15 people. It is reported that bogus parts have been found in such unlikely places as military helicopters and a U.S. space shuttle. “The average consumer’s attitude is one thing when you’re talking about a fake Cartier or Rolex watch,” said a prominent counterfeiting investigator, “but when your health and safety is endangered, that changes the picture.”
The list of potentially dangerous counterfeits includes heart pacemakers sold to 266 U.S. hospitals; imitation birth-control pills that reached the American market in 1984; and fungicides, composed principally of chalk, that ruined Kenya’s coffee crop in 1979. There are widespread bogus pharmaceuticals that can endanger the lives of consumers. The deaths resulting from counterfeit medicines worldwide may be staggering.
There is a mounting concern over counterfeited small home electrical appliances. “Some of these products carry phony trade names or authorizations such as the Underwriters Laboratory listing,” American Way reported. “But they aren’t made to the same safety standards, so they will explode, cause house fires and make the whole installation unsafe,” said one safety engineer.
In the United States and in Europe, aviation groups are equally alarmed. In Germany, for example, airlines have found bogus engine and brake parts in their inventory. Investigations are “being conducted in Europe, Canada and the United Kingdom, where unapproved parts (tail rotor shaft nuts) have been linked to a recent fatal helicopter crash,” transportation officials said. “Agents have seized scores of bogus jet engine components, brake assemblies, poor quality bolts and fasteners, defective fuel and flight systems parts, unapproved cockpit instruments and flight computer components that are critical to flight safety,” reported the Flight Safety Digest.
In 1989 a chartered airplane en route to Germany from Norway suddenly went into a steep dive from its cruising altitude of 22,000 feet [6,600 m]. The tail section was torn away, sending the plane into a dive so violent that both wings snapped off. All 55 souls aboard were killed. After a three-year investigation, Norwegian aviation experts discovered that the crash was caused by faulty bolts, called locking pins, that held the tail section to the fuselage. Stress analysis showed the bolts were made of metal far too weak to withstand the buffeting forces of flight. The faulty locking pins were counterfeit—a word only too familiar to aviation safety experts everywhere, for counterfeiting is a growing problem that endangers the lives of airplane crews and passengers.
When national television interviewed the inspector general for the Department of Transportation in the United States, she said: “All the airlines have received bogus parts. They all have them. They all have a problem.” The industry admits, she added, “that they have probably an estimated two or three billion dollars worth of unusable inventory.”
In the same interview, an aviation safety consultant, who has advised the FBI on various undercover operations involving bogus parts, warned that counterfeit parts represent a true danger. “I think we are definitely looking at a major air carrier disaster sometime in the near future as a result,” he said.
The day of reckoning is soon at hand for those whose greed allows them to put their own selfish desire ahead of the lives of others. God’s inspired Word states definitely that greedy persons will not inherit God’s Kingdom.—1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
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Clothing, jewelry, paintings, pharmaceuticals, airplane parts—anything valuable is grist for the counterfeiter’s mill
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Bogus engine parts, defective bolts, cockpit instruments, computer components, and other counterfeit parts have caused crashes that cost lives