Search press releases

Advanced search options
Dial 999 in an emergency
Dial 101 in a non-emergency

Trick or treat: PIPCU warns of fake fancy dress dangers ahead of Halloween

  • PIPCU warns people not to be tricked into buying fake fancy dress costumes
  • Counterfeit costumes pose risks of suffocation, poisoning and strangulation
  • Shoppers are also at risk of identity theft from fraudsters who sell the costumes

The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is urging people to buy their Halloween fancy dress outfits from legitimate sellers.

Counterfeit costumes pose risks of suffocation, poisoning from untested dyes and strangulation from unsuitable fastenings. The outfits are not tested or subjected to the same rigorous testing as genuine items and therefore pose a public safety risk to consumers. The packaging of the clothing also does not meet safety standards.

PIPCU is also warning the public that ‘there’s more at stake’ when buying counterfeit Halloween costumes on marketplace websites and social media. When buying items online, people will part with personal details including banking details which allow fraudsters to set-up new websites selling counterfeit products in the victim’s name.

Don’t get cursed this Halloween

PIPCU is issuing the following consumer advice and tips for safe online shopping this Halloween:

  • Trust your instincts – if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Legitimate items are rarely discounted, so do not rush and be fooled into believing you are getting a good deal.
  • Check the spelling and grammar on the website and of the URL as often the people behind these sites will try to deceive you by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address.
  • Look to see where the trader is based and whether they provide a postal address – just because the web address has ‘uk’ do not assume the seller is based in the UK. If there is no address supplied or there is just a PO Box or email, be wary.
  • Only deal with reputable sellers and only use sites you know or ones that have been recommended to you. If you have not bought from the seller before, do your research and check online reviews. People will often turn to forums and blogs to warn others of fake sites.
  • Ensure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment.
  • Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date.
  • Ask the trader if there is a returns policy or guarantee. Most rogue traders will not offer this.
  • Watch out for pop-ups appearing asking you to confirm your card details before you are on the payment stage. Never enter your PIN online.

Detective Inspector Nicholas Court, of the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, said: “Enjoying Halloween safely should be a guarantee, not a treat. Purchasing costumes from a reputable seller will ensure you are not tricked into buying unsafe products.

“Counterfeit costumes are untested, meaning they put people at risk of suffocation and strangulation. Make sure your Halloween is scary for the right reasons!”

Chris Isitt, Vice President, EMEA & Australia, of Rubie’s Masquerade Co. UK Ltd, said: 


“We take great pride in our intellectual property rights and that of our licensors and have a zero tolerance approach when it comes to the sale of counterfeit costumes. Our Global Anti-Piracy team works around the clock to detect and investigate rogue traders prior to implementing a variety of enforcement initiatives.

 “We are extremely thankful for the assistance we have had and continue to receive from Law Enforcement since the implementation of our specialist in-house team over two years ago. The operational activity carried out this year is a great example of the team, lead by Mike O’Connell, working closely with law enforcement and other partners to combat the sale of illicit product. In total we have carried out over thirty separate criminal operations on traders based in the UK and a number of those have resulted in successful prosecutions.

 “Rubie’s enable children and parents to celebrate events such as Halloween and World Book Day by creating dress up to help bring to their favourite characters and stories to life from all over the world. During this fun time it’s vital that parents check the source of where they are buying fancy dress costumes as counterfeit fancy dress costumes are not subjected to the same rigorous testing as genuine items and can pose a public safety risk to children. We ensure that all our costumes and accessories meet the required testing standards in the UK, across the European community and around the world. All Rubie’s costumes sold in the UK and Europe comply with the applicable requirements.


“Our team will continue to act on any intelligence we receive to take unsafe and counterfeit goods off the streets. If you suspect that you have become the victim of fraud after buying counterfeit costumes you can contact our Anti-Piracy team directly by emailing or to report the crime directly to the police you can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.”

 Dominique Peckett, Director of Smiffys, said:

 “Many counterfeit goods which are sold via online marketplaces fail to comply with health and safety regulations, which is a huge concern. At Smiffys we take product safety very seriously. All our children costumes exceed the safety standards required by law and comply with EN71 regulations, Nightwear (Flammability) Standards BS 5722 and BRC code of conduct.

 “We take infringement of our intellectual property rights extremely seriously as it represents a direct attack on our business and is theft of our intellectual creations. It is important consumers are vigilant as any products which do not meet these high standards could be dangerous. A lot of traders will pass-off counterfeit items as the genuine brand, if in doubt, check for the following and always ensure you are dealing a reputable online retailer or shop on the high street.”

 Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright and Enforcement at the IPO said: “Halloween can be a fun time for families, and along with our partners in the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), we want to make sure it stays that way. 

“We echo PIPCU’s advice, and would urge the public to think twice before buying fake fancy dress costumes - the dangers are alarming, with potentially shocking implications to public safety.”

Share release