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Police warn people to steer clear of fake fancy dress for World Book Day

  • Fake fancy dress puts people at risk of suffocation and poisoning from untested dyes.
  • Counterfeit goods purchasers put themselves at risk of identity crime.

The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is urging people to buy genuine fancy dress for World Book Day.

From princesses to comic book characters, counterfeit fancy dress costumes are not subjected to the same rigorous testing as genuine items and can pose a public safety risk to consumers. The risks could involve burns from flammable materials, suffocation, poisoning from untested dyes and strangulation due to the lack of appropriate fastenings. The packaging of the clothing also does not meet safety standards. 

Taking action

On 22nd February 2018 West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service teamed up with West Yorkshire Police and Brand Protection Officers from Rubie’s Masquerade Co. (UK) Ltd and executed a warrant at an eBay trader’s home address to seize counterfeit and unsafe kids’ costumes.

Over 3000 costumes were seized ahead of World Book Week which could have seen many of these bought by parents for this occasion. If genuine, then the total cost of the items seized would be over £80,000. Counterfeit goods cost the UK economy billions of pounds a year.

There’s more at stake

PIPCU is also warning the public that ‘there’s more at stake’ when buying counterfeit fancy dress costumes online. Identity crime is one of the main consequences of buying counterfeit goods on websites, social media and online. When buying fake items, people provide personal details such as their address and financial information which allows fraudsters to set-up new websites selling counterfeit goods in their name.

PIPCU works closely with its partners to identify and disrupt those who are intent on making money out of counterfeit goods and as such putting consumers at risk of harm.

Detective Inspector Nicholas Court, of the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, said:

“World Book Day is an exciting opportunity for children to become their favourite characters, and we want them to be able to do this safely.

“Fake fancy dress costumes could put children at risk of serious harm from flammable materials as they do not go through any rigorous testing.

“We are also warning the public that ‘there’s more at stake when it’s a fake’. Buying fake fancy dress costumes, not only poses a public safety risk, but buying from rogue sites can also put your personal and financial information at risk, meaning that criminals can use your identity for malicious means.”

Director of Copyright and Enforcement at the Intellectual Property Office, Ros Lynch, said: 

“It’s great that so many children celebrate World Book Day by dressing up and bringing to life stories from authors all over the world.

“Although this is a fun time for children, it’s vital that parents check the source of where they are buying fancy dress costumes, not only to avoid serious harm coming to their children, but to keep their personal information away from criminals.

“We echo the advice given by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and fully support their ‘there’s more at stake when it’s a fake’ campaign.”
Rubie’s Brand Protection Manager EMEA, Ellen Bamborough said: “In order to best protect consumers, our team has been working extensively to detect and report listings selling counterfeit product on popular trading platforms in the run up to Book Week. Our whole team are working together and focusing on combatting rogue traders in the UK market at this time. We have a zero tolerance approach when it comes to the sale of counterfeit product and urge consumers to take action if they see an item that they suspect is fake or counterfeit by reporting it in to our team at”

Take a leaf out of PIPCU’s book this World Book Day

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

  • 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. Fake costumes can retail for as little at £5.99 on auction sites.
  • 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 and also check that the website URL is correct and accurate for the site you wish to visit.
  • 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.
  • If you believe you have fallen victim to fraud by purchasing counterfeit goods, please report to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or on the website,

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