Legally speaking, in order for something to be considered counterfeit, it just needs to be a ‘fake’ version of something trying to pass as the legitimate version of that product. While counterfeit movies are overly common (because let’s be honest, everyone has seen at least one counterfeit movie), there are a few counterfeit schemes that are just too absurd to not share with you. The amazing thing is that these schemes worked in the past, and some of them still work today.
7. Counterfeit Condoms
In 2013 alone, 110 million condoms were seized due to being made of a poor quality. While they aren’t counterfeit in the way that you’re thinking, because the condoms didn’t meet the standards set by the Food and Drugs Authority of Ghana, they are classified as counterfeit. Typically, these condoms were unusually small, barely lubricated, had holes, and broke easily under pressure. Basically, they are everything that you don’t want a condom to be.
So, who was making them?
Reports have stated that Chinese manufacturing companies are to blame. They are able to pass themselves off as condoms temporarily by taking shortcuts to appear more like a condom. One investigation revealed that instead of sexual lubricant to oil up a condom, one company was using vegetable oil – which can literally rot rubber over an extended period of time.
The Chinese government is allegedly trying to shut down these counterfeit operations, as China is the fourth largest exporter of condoms, and I really thought they would be higher. The Chinese only export around 1.6 billion condoms per year.
I feel bad for anyone using these counterfeit condoms. Here they are, thinking they’re having safe sex, when they’re really having really dry and uncomfortable sex. I’m just glad it’s not me.
6. Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals
30% of all pharmaceutical products sold in developing countries are counterfeit. In what was described as a $75 billion to $200 billion a year industry, counterfeit pharmaceuticals are described by the FBI as one of the biggest problems in the 21st century. Approximately 700,000 people die in developing countries because of these counterfeit medicines.
It is believed that these drugs (typically Viagra and malaria vaccinations) are primarily manufactured in India. In 2005, the European Union reported that India was responsible for 75% of the global cases of counterfeit medicine. The next biggest exporters were Egypt at 7% and China at 6%.
Researchers say that these counterfeit pharmaceuticals often have the logo of a well known pharmaceutical, such as Pfizer, who has found at least 20 fake versions of its product in legitimate supply chains in 44 countries. These pharmaceuticals are dangerous because they are using cheap substitutes that haven’t been tested properly, or the “medicine” is just a blank pill, which causes the patient to essentially neglect their medical condition.
These counterfeit operations are able to distribute their merchandise thanks to a few crooked medical professionals, such as pharmacists and physicians, corrupt politicians, and of course, organized crime syndicates and terrorist organizations.
5. Counterfeit Eggs
The Chinese can literally counterfeit anything, can’t they? It’s an estimated $260 billion global industry, and the counterfeiters are incredibly creative and resourceful. If only if they used their talents on something to benefit society, rather than to rip people off. But hey, to each their own.
In the mid 1990’s there was a surge of fake eggs being spread all over China in small markets. These eggs, typically sold cheaper than the average egg price, were actually not eggs at all. Surprising, right? These counterfeit eggs were made out of resin, starch, coagulant and pigments, sodium alginate, amalgamate paraffin wax and the shell is made of gypsum powder and calcium carbonate. One counterfeiter could make around 1,500 fake eggs per day, assuming they know what they are doing.
Yi Junpeng, assistant professor for biological engineering at Henan University of Science and Technology was asked for advice how to spot fake eggs at the market. The assistant professor said that eggs what are too perfectly shaped and smooth, eggs that lack a faint smell, and eggs that make a more hollow sound when tapped than a real egg, are probably fake. Be aware!
4. The Counterfeit Godfather
Peng Daxiang is a renowned artist in his hometown of Shantou, China, and is responsible for creating the templates used in almost 97% of all counterfeit Chinese banknote production. Peng Daxiang was such a skilled artist that he used his abilities for evil, and created fake 100 yuan (about $15.30) templates, which he then sold to gangs and criminal organizations for anywhere between 50,000 Yuan ($7,600) and 120,000 Yuan ($18,300).
The 73-year-old was arrested in 2013 in a police operation and has since been sentenced to life in jail, which probably won’t be very long (let’s be honest). Although he is out of commission, the legend of his perfect counterfeit template lives on, as Chinese counterfeiters owe their business to him. 532 million Yuan ($81,377,300.20) was seized in 2014. Remember, almost 97% of all counterfeit money in China is because of Peng Daxiang.
You’ve almost got to respect how good his counterfeit templates must have been if he had such a creative monopoly on the Chinese counterfeit market.
3. The Cursed Painting
Two Spanish brothers, in the span of about 12 years, were conned in two different transactions involving the same painting. The brothers bought what they thought was a legitimate Francisco de Goya painting, entitled “Portrait of Don Antonio Maria Esquivel.” After paying 20,000 euros for the painting in a deposit, a private investigation from a de Goya expert revealed that the painting was a counterfeit. A court ruled that the brothers could keep the painting for 20,000 euros, instead of paying 270,000 euros, the full price they had originally agreed to pay.
Fast forward to December 2014, the two brothers decide that it’s time to sell the fake painting, and pretend that it is a de Goya original with the hopes of tricking a potential art enthusiast in the same sort of way that they were tricked. The brothers were contacted by a rich Sheikh who said he would pay 4,000,000 euros for the painting. Fantastic! Both brothers organized for a middleman to deliver the money to themselves, who they of course, checked the bills to make sure they weren’t counterfeit. The money was legitimate, and they swapped the painting for the bag of cash, thinking they had scammed a rich Sheikh.
However, at some point, the middle man swapped out the real bag of money, for counterfeit bills. The men were arrested trying to deposit 1.7million Francs in a Geneva bank. The bank, catching that the bills were fake, phoned the police and an investigation was launched.
To make matters worse, the men agreed to pay the middle man 300,000 euros, but they didn’t have that money up front. They asked their friend for the cash, and stated that they would pay their friend back the next day with an extra 80,000 euros as a thank you. At least, that was the plan.
The Sheikh and the middleman have since disappeared, leaving the brothers with a pretty big hole in their wallet, a criminal record, but finally rid of the painting that brought them so much misfortune.
2. The Superdollar
The ‘Superdollar’ is used to describe a counterfeit American $100 bill. The Superdollar carries its name because it is said to be made with such precision and high quality that they are virtually indistinguishable from a legitimate $100 bill. In fact, a lot of security features that were added to the bill are a direct result of trying to make the bill too complicated to counterfeit. However, the counterfeiters were able to keep up with the security measures.
The bills were used worldwide from the late 1980s until around July 2000, but today the bills are typically only used in Asia, where the US currency is seen as a much more stable currency than the local bills.
So who’s making these Superdollars? There’s a lot of speculation, but the U.S. government believes that North Korea is responsible for running massive facilities to create counterfeit American bills in an effort to lower the value of the American dollar. While it hasn’t affected the dollar too much, the bills are viewed as a serious problem by the U.S. government because they are so perfectly made that they aren’t sure how they can catch these bills and take them out of circulation.
The U.S. government believes North Korea is mainly responsible, partly because many defectors have described the counterfeit operations to official investigators. These descriptions provided by defectors match intelligence gathered by South Korea. These bills were funneled into circulation and exchanged for legitimate bills of other currencies when North Korean diplomats would travel to the USSR.
Other potential producers of the Superdollar are Iran, Russia, and, of course, China.
While stationed in London, Emmerich Heisenberg, a Nazi SS agent, read about a counterfeit scheme where British currency was being created in India in 1924. Heisenberg sent this information to his superior, Major Bernard Kruger, who came up with a plan to set up a team of 142 counterfeiters from inmates stationed at concentration camps to flood the market with a perfect counterfeit bill that would lower the value of the real British currency. The operation was launched in 1942, but shut down in 1945 after the Germans lost control of Sachsenhausen concentration camp where the operation was initially based.
Surprisingly, the Germans were actually able to produce so many counterfeit bills that were so perfectly manufactured that they were indistinguishable from a legitimate bill. Similar to the Superdollar, except the Germans were able to lower the value of the British currency. This, in turn, made it harder for the British to exchange goods and services with other countries, which was an essential part of funding the war in Europe.
When the operation was shut down as the Germans started losing control of Europe, it was discovered that the counterfeiters had produced 8,965,080 bank notes, with a total value back then of £134,610,810. Today, that would roughly be the equivalent of £1,771,000,000.00. In other words, the Germans went to fucking town creating these counterfeit bills.