With Black Friday sales approaching, consumers and retailers are being warned by experts to avoid being fooled by counterfeit goods and fake products.
The global trade in fake goods is worth nearly half a trillion dollars a year, or around 2.5 percent of global imports, according to a report from the OECD.
Black Friday sales will exacerbate the problem of counterfeiting on an international scale, warns Aziz Rahman, senior partner at law firm Rahman Ravelli.
"The U.S. has been blighted by counterfeiting for a longtime; a point that was emphasized by the OECD earlier this year. Its report …showed that the US accounted for 20 percent of the total value of global fake goods seizures in 2013," he told CNBC via email.
"Of the 12 nations that were included in the counterfeiting hotspot rankings, nine were based in Europe."
Black Friday is of huge value to retailers, U.S. consumers spent around $67.5 billion in stores last year, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute. With that much money at stake, it's possible for counterfeit goods to enter their supply chain, especially when smaller or independent traders look for bargains in order to compete with larger rivals.
"A sales day such as Black Friday intensifies the desire fora bargain and, therefore, creates a demand that can be filled by people supplying counterfeit goods," Rahman said.
"It can be the case that people accused of selling counterfeit goods genuinely do not know that what they are selling is fake."
Consumers are also at risk of fraud, as they may be fooled by dodgy deals, warns Trish Young, U.K. & Ireland head of business consulting at Cognizant.
"These 'deals' can often be found on fake websites, which means consumers face an increased risk of faulty transactions, putting their payment details at risk or locking them in for multiple additional payments that they did not see within the small print," Young told CNBC via email.
"The problem is that it is hard to prove authentication in many cases. Unlike 'fair-trade' symbols used for food products, retail customers are forced to trust authenticity when making rapid purchases without conducting diligent research," she added.
Young recommended shopping directly through a brand's own digital channels and physical stores, or through a reputable retailer, to avoid counterfeit goods.
Electronic goods and fashion products are more susceptible to the counterfeiting problem, according to Anusha Couttigane, senior analyst at Kantar Retail.
"While the latter can leave consumers out of pocket,counterfeit appliances and devices can pose a real danger to customers,especially if faulty design means they have not been put through all the necessary safety checks in manufacturing," she told CNBC via email.
However, both retailers and consumers can protect themselves.
"Retailers – big and small – need to ensure that they are dealing with legitimate suppliers and inspecting supply chains well in advance to catch any issues before products are shipped to stores," Couttigane said.
Making purchases with credit cards, buying from well-recognized retailers and leaving reviews and testimonies can all provide protection and help to guarantee authenticity.
"The more retailers and shoppers alike share their experiences, the more informed buyers and shoppers can be when it comes to choosing who to trust," she added.