Fake designer perfume and makeup could contain toxic cyanide, arsenic, urine or even rat droppings, police have warned shoppers ahead of Valentine’s Day on 14 February.
Detectives issued the advice after more than 500 suspected counterfeit products were seized in a raid in London – a haul stimated to be worth over £40,000.
While police have refused to reveal the exact location of the fake perfume factory for operational reasons, they did say the raid was carried out at the end of last month.
Officers from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at the City of London Police carried out the raid, saying lab tests have shown counterfeit perfume can often contain poisonous chemicals – including human urine and cyanide.
The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit carried out the raid in January. Credit: SWNS
Fake cosmetics including eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss and foundation have also been found to contain toxic levels of chemicals, along with harmful substances like arsenic, mercury and lead.
These can cause allergic reactions – from skin irritation and swelling through to rashes and burns – and may even leave people with long-term health problems.
The PIPCU warned that counterfeit products are often produced in unsanitised and unhygienic factories.
They also said there have been cases where rat droppings and rat poison have also been found in fake cosmetics.
Fake items can cause skin irritation, swelling, rashes and burns. Credit: SWNS
Officers also warned shoppers about the dangers of providing personal details to such non-reputable sellers, explaining criminals often use people’s personal details to commit fraud, such as registering counterfeit websites.
Since the unit’s inception back in 2013, PIPCU detectives have overseen the disruption of more than 67,000 counterfeit website.
They say there are simple checks that can be made to identify counterfeit websites – with many sites featuring poor spelling, grammar, images and inconsistent fonts.
Detective Chief Inspector Teresa Russell, of PIPCU, said: “Valentine’s Day is a counterfeiter’s dream.
“With jewellery and perfume being popular gift choices, it’s easy to fall into the trap of a cheap offer.
“Fake make-up and perfume can contain harmful chemicals and even rat droppings that cause swelling, rashes and burns.
“Purchasing counterfeit goods online often results in your personal details being used to set up new fraudulent websites.
“Treat your Valentine to something legitimate from a reputable seller. Avoid heartbreak, don’t buy fake.”
Officers also warned about the dangers of providing personal details to non-reputable sellers. Credit: SWNS
Dr Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright and Enforcement at the Intellectual Property Office, added: “We strongly advise shoppers to keep Valentine’s Day safe as well as special this year.
“Counterfeit fashion goods, makeup and electrical items are not only the result of criminal activity, but many can harm as well.”
Something to bear in mind while you’re frantically running around trying to find a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift – if in doubt, just go for flowers. Or a love sausage.