If you’re into buying designer fragrances on the cheap, you’d better know who’s selling them to you — because five men were just busted for passing off some foul substances in bottles as the real thing.
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Urine and carcinogens found in knockoff perfume
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a crime ring working out of New York City allegedly imported generic liquid fragrances from China and then put them into branded and trademarked packaging for sale to wholesalers in seven states.
Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Chanel No. 5, Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue and Lacoste were just a few of the well-known fragrance names the crime ring was counterfeiting.
Designer fragrances can easily be $60 – $100 or more. But the crime ring reportedly sold their wares to wholesalers for around $8 a bottle. New York City, Texas, Georgia and Washington, D.C. were among the place where their counterfeit fragrances were shipped.
Now for the truly gross part: The knockoff fragrances had ingredients that weren’t disclosed on the label.
A sample of one perfume revealed the presence of DEHP, a toxic chemical linked to cancer, and damage to the liver, kidneys and reproductive systems, police say.
These phony perfumes and colognes, which sometimes contain urine as well, have been known to cause serious skin rashes, according to the FBI.
If convicted, the members of this crime ring face a minimum of 20 years in jail.
Here are better ways to get a bargain on your favorite legit fragrances
The Wall Street Journal reports you can save big on fragrances if you’ll skip the department stores and instead buy in non-traditional places like drugstores, Walmart, Target or through trusted online retailers like Overstock.com.
Sales of fragrances are really soft right now. That’s led to a lot of product being grey marketed through unofficial outlets. We’re not talking about out-of-date product or counterfeit junk. This is the real stuff at big discounts, often 25% to 55%.
For example, the Wall Street Journal found the following:
- Hugo Boss fragrance (2.5 ounces) at $28 on Overstock.com vs. $59 at Sephora
- Eternity for Men (3.4 ounces) for $36 at CVS vs. $76 at Macy’s
- Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue (3.3 ounces) for $70 at Walmart vs. $96 at Nordstrom
Costco will also have a lot of department store exclusive fragrances from time to time. But now this is across the industry. And it’s not just perfume, it’s cosmetics too. Rarely will they be counterfeit; it could happen, but if you know the store you’re shopping, you can lessen that chance.
Warnings signs to look for in counterfeit perfume
Nobody wants to buy complete garbage, especially when it could contain vile and potentially harmful substances like urine and DEHP. The National Intellectual Property Rights Center (IPR) — of which the FBI is a partner — has put together the following warning signs to tip you off:
- The packaging differs slightly from the authentic brand (might be a different color or different lettering on the product), and/or the product’s wrapping appears haphazard.
- The product is being advertised as a “limited edition” even though the authentic manufacturer doesn’t offer it as a limited edition.
- The price is either slightly or drastically lower.
- For cosmetics, the product’s consistency or texture just doesn’t feel or look like the authentic brand.
- For fragrances, there’s something a little off about the scent, and the color of the fluid in the bottle might be different than the original.
- For both products, they’re being sold at non-authorized retailers, including flea markets, mall kiosks and over the Internet.