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Get Smart: How Canon and the National Crime Prevention Council Are Educating Consumers About the Dangers of Counterfeits

September 5, 2017

McGruff The Crime Dog® has been teaching Americans of all ages to “Take a Bite Out of “Crime®” for 36 years. But McGruff isn’t just nipping at the heels of drug pushers and bullies—he’s also on the trail of another breed of criminal, one engaged in the lucrative trade of intellectual property theft.

Of course, intellectual property theft doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of criminal activity that quickens the pulse (unless you’re a lawyer), but the real-world consequences of counterfeiting are anything but a bore. In fact, a network of criminal manufacturers—some with links to international organized crime syndicates—traffic in counterfeit Canon power accessories, including products that may cause serious harm to unsuspecting consumers.

“Counterfeit products are rarely, if ever, manufactured in compliance with important government and industry safety standards,” warns Cathleen Combs, senior director and chairperson of Canon U.S.A. Inc.’s Anti-Counterfeiting Committee. “This is typically why they are so inexpensive. Most do not include important heat-management technologies and other safety measures. Consequently, counterfeits may burn, melt or smoke and potentially cause serious personal injury or property damage.”

Canon has found counterfeiters producing knock-off batteries, battery chargers, battery grips, and external flashes. To help raise awareness about the safety risks associated with using counterfeit photography gear, Canon partnered with the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), the home of our friend McGruff, to spread their cautionary message to consumers.

According to NCPC CEO Ann Harkins, the organization, together with Canon, is providing educational tools to crime prevention practitioners, educators and law enforcement officials who, in turn, are able to use those resources to teach their communities about the dangers of purchasing counterfeits. The program kicked off in 2016 and its broad reach has included digital media campaigns, public service announcement videos and a satellite media tour. “All to hammer home the simple, important message: counterfeit products can be dangerous,” Harkins says.

Counterfeiting isn’t just dangerous to consumers. This illicit trade damages businesses as well. “If people are buying cheap counterfeit products at flea markets or from fly-by-night salespeople, then legitimate businesses and dealers who are paying taxes are losing sales,” Harkins says.

Dangerous as they are, counterfeits aren’t easy to spot, and that is why Canon and NCPC advise customers to buy through authorized dealers or direct from the manufacturer. For Canon, enacting stricter penalties for those engaged in counterfeiting would help crack down on the practice, as would greater assistance from the small-parcel shipping industry, through improvements in its screening practices. Online marketplaces also need to “become stricter with third-party sellers,” Combs says, to ensure they are authorized by manufacturers to sell the manufacturer’s branded products. This is why Canon and NCPC warn customers to steer clear of foreign e-commerce sites, particularly those with prices that look too good to be true.

Ultimately, success in the war against counterfeiters rests with the buying public, Harkins says. Consumers need to understand that buying knock-off goods may be dangerous and may underwrite criminal organizations. No cheap battery is worth that price.

While their safety message has reached millions of consumers, both Canon and the NCPC recognize there is still work to be done.  They are looking forward to continuing their anti-counterfeiting partnership into 2018.

–Sponsored by Canon