Counterfeit goods detection about to get harder

A new report from the EU law enforcement agency Europol warns that the tracking of fake goods is about to become a lot more difficult.

The report, Exploring Tomorrow’s Organised Crime, predicts a decline in “traditional hierarchical criminal groups and networks” and an expansion of “a virtual criminal underground” made up of individual criminal entrepreneurs.

One factor behind the shift is innovation in transportation and logistics, which will  allow criminals to increasingly commit crime anonymously over the Internet and without the need for their physical presence.  It also points to ‘personal fabrication’ using 3D printers.  In many cases, the production of fake goods will take place closer to the point of delivery, often in so-called ‘fab shops’ or at home.

Raw materials for 3D printing will still need to be delivered to the place of fabrication. This could also provide a new revenue stream for criminal organisations via the supply of counterfeit raw materials for 3D printers, as well as counterfeit 3D printers and their components.

One industry identified as a likely target for increased counterfeiting is the health and life sciences sector. An ageing population in the EU expected to lead to a rise in the production and trafficking of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, medical devices, artificial limbs as well as counterfeit vaccines.  Europe’s “obesity epidemic” may also lead to the distribution of more counterfeit slimming pills, diabetes treatments, related devices and heart medications.

The report makes for grim reading for those in the business of fighting illicit trade. The predicted changes won’t occur overnight, but it is clear that manufacturers need to think about how they will react to changing counterfeit patterns before they happen.

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