Have you been Kirfed lately?

Kirf is a term coined by Engadget magazine: "Keep It Real Fake".

There has been such a proliferation of fake product in our market place ... while the internet has given every body more access to information and media, it has also given a much greater variety of opportunity for dishonest operators to reach into your pocket.

This list of websites that purvey counterfeit headphones put up by the Monster Cable company gives one an indication of the extent of kirfing in Hi fi on the internet.

So it was with interest that I saw in the BBC that a gentleman from Portsmouth has been sent down for two years for the purveyance of fake goods. Mr Michael Reeder was found in possession of $250,000 of forged items at his home, not in itself a crime but his deception under the Trade Marks Act in the UK was deemed worthy of a jail sentence. It is estimated that he had sold no less than 40 million pounds worth of goods before being arrested.

BBC 20th April 2013

I am not sure if there is an Australian analogy for the Trade Marks provision in our laws. To my knowledge there have been no successful prosecutions in Australia for this type of misdemeanour, a number of distributors have attempted civil cases against grey importers under trademark rights, but the companies in case usually slip away like an eel in a net and reopen under a different name within half an hour.

Regardless, most fake goods are purveyed directly from genuine seeming websites that are thoroughly immune to local legislation. To be frank it has rendered us rather jaded on certain product lines, there is that type of phone call or visit we get, typically to inquire after an audition on high end headphone brands, wherein the youngish individual is hitherto a stranger to our business and proffers an air of assumed innocence as to the product but is happy to listen to at great length through their digital replay device a pair of expensive cans.

It seems to be case with this type of customer that they are in a "don't ask don't tell" mindset and any attempt to broach the topic along the lines of "I know you have seen these on the internet at a much better price but please be aware of fakes and frauds out there" is usually met by a dismayed expression and a quick scuttle from the store. Apparently as retailers we are not meant to be privy to their secret knowledge of internet prices ... and I guess fronting them with it is a bit like their mum looking at their bedroom computer website history.

It is not only headphones that attract forgeries, any passive component will do. Cables and now loudspeakers are the subject of pirative manufacture. Actually one of the most powerful fake loudspeaker purveyance routines started here in Melbourne being the "White Van Scam".

If you don't already know about this it is where the innocent consumer has a van pull up alongside and offer "a spare pair of speakers from my delivery". A set of largish impressive looking boxes will quickly change hands to the profit of the van man and the loss of the punter. I am inappropriately proud that this scam started in Melbourne. The gentleman who began it is reportedly living in a mansion in Kowloon these days and receives a substantial cash flow from his agencies around the worlds main cities.

Interestingly the internet and ebay is used to perpetrate the speaker scam by offering corroboration for the current brand vehicle used by the White Vanners. Also the victims of the scam often then go on to try and sell their worthless hollow speaker boxes online at high prices in order to try and recoup their loss.

By the way this is a posed photograph of Rab and Jerry caught White Vanning ...

White Vanner