From job scammers in Dubai to other financial scams all over the United Arab Emirates, it was no surprise that in the last year, millions of counterfeit consumer products were seized in raids by consumer protection officers in the UAE.
The products ranged from cell phones to cigarettes and cosmetics all valued at $434 million. In 2015, the top items recovered from raids were counterfeit fragrances. In 2016, cell phones topped the list of confiscated products. 14.6 million counterfeit cell phones were seized by the Department of Economic Development (DED).
Chief executive of DED, Mohammed Rashed Ali Lootah, said that the latest trick is to import generic cell phones and turn them into fake Apple or Samsung devices by easily switching operating systems. "Mobiles have a very common shape, with most well-known brands sharing similar features. There is a code that is entered so they can be switched to the software and markings of a well-known brand. They do that to get them through any customs checks globally under the pretense of being a separate, generic brand," Lootah states. Once the phones are imported, they are then reprogrammed and sold on the black market as genuine. The cheaper components used in the generic fake phones often decrease the safety of the devices.
Other products seized in the raids included well-known brands of gaming equipment, vehicle parts, medical equipment, stationery and office products. Consumer officers also seized thousands of fake packaging material, construction materials, household items, sports equipment, electronic and electrical appliances, electronic cigarettes, perfumes, sunglasses, clothing, bags, leather goods, food products, watches, shoes, bed linens, tablets and computers. The biggest problem with counterfeit goods is that creators of these products do not care about safety, but want to create the products as quickly and as cheaply as possible in order to move them into the black market and make a quick profit.
Even with an increase in raids by the DED, the number of products confiscated in 2016 was seven percent higher than in 2015. Consumers should remain suspicious when purchasing items in the UAE as well as purchasing items online that have UAE origins as they have a high likelihood of being counterfeit.