An international trade body says new reports about criminals cashing in on the COVID-19 crisis highlight the urgent need for more investment in anti-counterfeiting technologies.

The message from the International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA) comes as Europol and EUIPO issue a fresh warning over counterfeit goods, particularly the international trade in fake pharmaceuticals, which is worth in excess of US$4 billion.

The World Health Organisation has also warned about the growth in the number of fake medicines linked to coronavirus on sale in developing countries in Africa and other parts of the world, where counterfeiters are exploiting gaps in the market.

Indeed, the IHMA claims that another report from the US confirms that people are ‘worried’ about purchasing fake goods as the pandemic continues to bite into consumer confidence. More than 68% of US consumers are worried that there might be more counterfeit or sub-standard quality products sold online as a result of COVID-19.

The IHMA says that as the pandemic continues, and law enforcement and government agencies remain stretched in the face of the challenges faced in the current climate, brand owners and product manufacturers can be far more proactive in tackling the counterfeiting threat.

And this includes considering stepping up their plans for investment in advanced authentication and verification technologies to protect brands, profits and reputation, says the HMA chair Dr Paul Dunn.

He adds: “Crafty criminals are taking advantage of the situation to use illegal global supply channels, sophisticated scams and fake documentation to obscure the origin of counterfeit products and their provenance.

“This is having a significant impact on consumer confidence and wellbeing during this time of global crisis. In particular, the dangers fake medicines and drugs pose to people’s health and safety.

“These reports reinforce the role of holograms as effective weapons in the frontline fight against counterfeiters and fraudsters and will continue to enhance brand protection. All involved in the supply chain can be reassured by the presence of holograms on products, recognising the benefits they provide.”

Dr Dunn says that the holography industry is responding with IHMA members offering products and technical expertise in the battle to secure supply chains and help government agencies combat the virus. This includes one company that has been proactive in maintaining delivery of security labels to support key pharmaceutical manufacturers for use in medicines, equipment and delivery systems.

The use of well-designed and properly deployed authentication solutions, as advocated by the ISO12931 standard, enables examiners to verify the authenticity of a legitimate product, differentiating it from fake products coming from counterfeiting hot spots in Asia and Eastern Europe. Even those that carry a ‘fake’ authentication feature can be distinguished from the genuine item if that item carries a carefully thought-out authentication solution.

For more information: www.ihma.org