Ever since EBN reader Rich K made a comment in response to one of my articles on counterfeiting, I have been considering the nuances of his statement, which in reality was a joke but one with an ironic twist. Rich said: "News Flash: Investigators today discovered that the entire mainland United States had been counterfeited and packaged to look like the original." (See: Calm Down: Counterfeiters Can Be Stopped.)
Now either he was just being silly or he was really making a serious statement. So, I went back into the EBN archives and read his stuff. He is very funny most of the time, but he is also a lucid writer with some serious chops. So I let myself ponder his statement. Here are my thoughts.
Counterfeiting implies deception: Make something that looks exactly like the higher valued, genuine article. Phony, imposter, knock-off, not genuine, bogus, forgery, and other words and phrases come to mind. But follow me down Counterfeit Lane and we may discover road signs and landmarks that justify, in part, what Rich has said. Let's look at just a few industries and practices that are targeted by counterfeiters.
- Pharmaceutical, including medicine and supplies: The FDA has a sub page on its Website that lists the medicines that were found to be counterfeit, including: cancer fighters, birth control (uh-oh), weight loss pills, Viagra, Adderall, Vicodin, Avastin, Tamiflu, and Alli, among others. These are some pretty heartless counterfeiters. Imagine using an anti-cancer drug that at best does nothing to combat cancer and at worst causes additional damage or even death by being some other contraindicated drug that has been rebranded.
- Clothing: Applied DNA Sciences is helping to fight this front with DNA marked threads tagged with the designer's and manufacturer's custom ID. Gucci handbags, wallets, and other high-end designer items are knocked-off all the time.
- Jewelry: In 1984, I bought two Rolex watches in Taiwan for $20. I believed they were genuine and thought the guy who sold them to me really "did me a solid." Back in the US, I took the watches to a watchmaker who had to study them for a while before concluding their counterfeit status.
- Music and movie CDs and DVDs: Entertainment media is a major target for counterfeiters.
- Software: It looks like MS, plays like MS, even works like MS, but it is BS.
I continue my pursuit of counterfeit worlds closer to home. Recently, a friend told me that when I go in for a consulting interview, I should dye my hair a darker color so I look younger than I really am. He said that this change alone would help me land some clients. He also said I should "doctor up" my résumé with some advanced degrees so it tailors more to what any particular prospect is looking for. I did consider his hair-dying suggestion for about 10 seconds, and then I projected myself forward in time and saw myself being locked into a routine of dying my hair regularly in order to keep up the rouse.
I concluded that I was not going to keep pouring chemicals on myself in order to keep a job while tacitly lying about my age. In electronics terms, this type of counterfeiting is called "blacktopping." And my résumé? It remains unchanged. My résumé and I are the genuine articles. My friend's heart was in the right place, but if I had taken his advice, I would have made myself into a counterfeit employee or consultant.
A LinkedIn group leader I know decided to do a background check on his members claiming to be degreed engineers. Let me add that he has several hundred profiles to review. He told me that 40 percent of the degrees were bogus. May I suggest that this may be the very pathos behind our casual acceptance of counterfeiters' goods. Why pay 600 dollars for a real G wallet when I can get one that looks like the genuine article for 20 bucks? "It ain't hurtin' anybody and G won't miss my dollars because they make plenty of money anyway."
See what I mean? It is to live a dishonest, counterfeit-laden life. I am sorry to say, but comments very close to the above were made on replies to my article. Rich K may have been semi-serious when he made his unique remark, but I assure you that counterfeiters are deadly serious because, in some cases involving bogus electronics and medicine, they are real merchants of death.